By Jay Menard
Often, when it comes to great social issues, we don’t fully understand the importance of what we say and what we do. We vote in isolation — understanding, conceptually, the topic at hand; we choose based on our values and how we define community. But for many of us, the end result is often separated by a degree or so.
For the topic of gay marriage, many of us have friends, family, or colleagues who are gay. Many of us support the cause — or have even been to a few weddings. But for those of us who are not gay, there remains that degree of separation. We can know what’s right; we can know what’s good — but to understand is something different.
LK Theatre’s The Morning After the Life Before tears down that barrier in a production that’s at once funny, sweet, endearing, and heart-wrenching. Ann Blake and Lucia Smyth seamlessly interweave characters, locations, topics, and times in a production that’s a delight to see.
Both characters frequently break the fourth wall — they address the audience, they share production notes and comments, and they compartmentalize the action on the stage. It’s a testament to their skill that they’re able to do so effortlessly — the asides, the conversations with the crowd, and the editing notes are designed to come across as spontaneous, but it’s clear that this duo are well rehearsed and masterful with their timing.
The play “starts” on Sunday, May 24, 2015 — the day after Ireland became the first country by popular vote to allow same-sex marriage. The plot revolves around Blake’s meeting of a woman, embracing her homosexuality, and dealing with a culture — and family — that’s strictly Irish Catholic and tethered to its understanding of what marriage is. Those familiar with the debates that we’ve had over the years in Canada will find parallels to this play: why isn’t a civil union enough, they’re asked; is it right for gay couples to have children?
Beautifully and organically, Blake and Smyth show the reality of their lives — that same-sex couples face the same highs, lows, and mundane arguments that so-called traditional couples. Gently, lovingly, and with a healthy dose of humour, they convey how absurd the idea of preventing any loving couple from getting married truly is.
At the end, Blake lays out why May 24th meant so much. She explained why the morning after the life before was, truly, transformative. It mean that her homeland had embraced a sense of belonging; it means that same-sex couples could feel more confident and safer in their own countries. And it meant a vote for love, empathy, and acceptance.
Blake explains how their lives “got improved forever.” And this production of The Morning After the Life Before is a thank you to Ireland.
It’s one of the finest examples of Fringe theatre I’ve seen and, by the end of the production, it was clearly getting a little dusty in The Arts Project.
***** — five of five stars
This review initially appeared on theatreinlondon.ca