The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) invited GC and me to another opening last week. The List is a one-woman play, about 75 minutes in length, about two mothers who are neighbours in a rural community. One of them is dead.
“I didn’t lay a finger on her,” the first woman says. Nor did she lift a finger to help her. And thus begins a story which explores the connections and the separations, the obligations and the guilt that so often frame the lives of women.
If I had to pick one word to describe The List, it would be monochromatic. The set, the emotional landscape, the language, the tone – everything is monochromatic. Some might find this boring, but I think it echoes the context of the play.
The woman telling the story is trapped in motherhood, depression, monotony, to-do lists, and guilt. The other woman, Caroline, despite her five children and the laundry hamper that is the focal point of her livingroom, seems less burdened by the stultifying routines of motherhood. She does not keep lists. She does not keep her house or her children clean. She just lives, without any apparent structure or rules. Her children draw on the walls.
They have drifted into friendship because of their shared isolation within their rural community. Had they lived in the city, they probably would not have chosen each other for friends. Sometimes the first woman doesn’t answer the door when the second woman and her brood came to visit. Especially on Wednesdays, when her own children are in daycare. She wants to savour her time alone; she is self-indulgent on Wednesdays.
Caroline’s death provokes intense feelings of guilt in the first woman, because she has repeatedly neglected to do the one thing that was asked of her. Instead of doing it, she kept putting it on her To-Do list and not doing it.
The last fifteen minutes or so of the play are considerably more intense and dramatic than the first hour.
I liked this play. I found myself remembering that sense of isolation as a young mother. I wasn’t living in a rural community, but I was the first of my friends and family to have a baby. My friends were all still partying. I lived downtown, where it seemed nobody had babies. All the other mothers lived somewhere else, and I didn’t know them. The Internet didn’t exist yet, so I couldn’t forge online friendships. And the routines of motherhood were pretty monotonous. Endless diapers and feedings and laundry and blah blah blah.
But I remember too that each day was punctuated by little bursts of joy, as my son smiled at me or did something new or just looked adorable. Watching him grow from newborn to baby to toddler was like watching the evolution of the species, as he mastered his opposable thumb and learned to walk upright and acquired language. I often felt like I was seeing everything for the first time, through his eyes. There was nowhere else I wanted to be, nothing else I wanted to be doing.
Anyway. This play is about motherhood, ambivalence and guilt, which might bore some people, but not me. Maybe because I’ve been there.
If you do go see it, please let me know what you think.