ANTIGONISH, N.S. —
ANTIGONISH – Time spent around the dinner table, most times, is about much more than the meal.
That is certainly the case for the award-winning Late Company, a play Theatre Antigonish (TA) will stage early next month at the venerable Bauer Theatre on the St. F.X. campus.
“It deals with so many serious issues,” Max Toulch, who plays Bill, said during an interview prior to a recent rehearsal.
Bill and his wife, Tamara Dermot, along with their, son, Curtis, are guests of Debora Shaun-Hastings and her husband, Michael, a couple still mourning the loss of their son.
Joel, who was burdened by the weight of bullying, both the ‘traditional’ and cyber variety – died by suicide one year earlier.
Curtis was one of his bullies.
The idea to come together – one fashioned by the mothers – is aimed at finding peace, bringing that elusive closure, if that is even possible.
The issues tackled around that table, not surprisingly, are complicated, including each character’s role, real or imagined, in the tragedy.
Written by Jordan Tannahill, a 26-year-old Canadian playwright, director and filmmaker, Late Company uses the 2011 suicide of Jamie Hubley, the teenage son of an Ottawa city councillor, as a springboard for telling this multi-layered story.
“There is not a good side and a bad side,” Kailin Wright, who is directing the TA production, offered.
She added there is “empathy for both points of view,” when it comes to the parents of the bully and the bullied.
“There are a lot of great talking points and there are no easy answers,” Wright added.
As a professor – she teaches English at St. F.X. – she said the “biggest thing” is the play “speaks to issues that students are dealing with.”
Toulch, a St. F.X. residence life co-ordinator, agreed.
“It is almost identical,” he said, noting university students are tackling the same issues on a daily basis.
Everything from cyberbullying and homophobia to suicide and mental health is explored during that gut-wrenching evening in Late Company.
Even with the “shift and growth,” when it comes to mental health and its stigma, Toulch said the production reminds us there remains the need for “more awareness.”
“It is about lifting that stigma,” he added, noting that is one of the many accomplishments that can be achieved through art.
Noting she is a mother, Wright said Late Company also “really speaks to parents.”
“Do you really know what your teenager is doing their bedroom?” she added, repeating one of the questions raised in the production.
It is one, which is even more magnified during this social media age, that’s not easily answered.
The teenager could be the one being bullied or the one bullying.
“Parents may think they know,” Wright offered, when it comes to what their children are doing.
Wright and Toulch, who studied theatre together at the University of Toronto, praised the cast and crew for their efforts.
“We have people with full-time jobs, and then some,” she said, while reflecting on the commitment made by everyone.
As with most productions for the community theatre, there is representation from St. F.X. – faculty, staff and students – along with Antigonish and environs.
“Everyone is so generous with their time and energy,” Toulch said.
Wright noted that is high praise, considering Toulch has an extensive resume as a professional actor.
He credited Wright for providing the cast with “the space to explore and try new things.”
The pair said everyone is “excited more than anything else” about bringing Late Company to the Antigonish stage.
“It is a great show and we hope that people come to see it,” Wright said.
After each performance there will be a discussion, which will include professors, students and community members as panelists.
The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions, to reflect and discuss the issues.
TA will present Late Company, which is 75 minutes long with no intermission, Feb. 7 and 8.
Showtime each evening is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.festivalantigonish.com or by calling 902-867-3333.
People are encouraged to book early.