Ins Choi brings his insightful new play Bad Parent home to Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre to start its rolling world premiere. Bad Parent, directed by Meg Roe, takes a hard look at the lives of Norah and Charles after the birth of their son, Mountain. Through the use of frequent moments of direct address, Norah and Charles and the audience go on a journey together which results in laughs, gasps, rage, sing-alongs, tears, and ultimately a feeling of true understanding and love.

            Bad Parent is one of the most realistic portrayals of a rocky relationship I think I’ve ever seen on stage. From the moments of petty passive-aggressive interactions to the full-blown arguments, Norah and Charles are clearly not getting along well from the very beginning. Within the first lines of the play Norah is correcting Charles about how they met; you can tell that their dynamic is strained. Choi does a fantastic job of making it so that neither one of them is the “bad guy” in the relationship; you can tell that they are both contributing to the negative aspects of their home life which makes the play very refreshing. I loved the totally relatable moments like the relationship test that is building IKEA furniture together or how people use months to tell their child’s age for way too long; even though these light-hearted moments of discord later give way to the larger, more serious issues.

What makes Bad Parent unique is the fact that the characters are totally aware of the audience’s presence throughout the course of the play, and interact with us about what we’ve just witnessed. It was an interesting way to demonstrate how our concerns about the ever-present “them” and what “they” think of us manifests itself in a relationship, particularly after you’ve had children. Once the characters can finally admit that they’re scared of being thought of as bad parents by “them”, then the true healing begins.

            Norah and Charles are expertly portrayed by Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu respectively. Their vulnerability and talent make them a delight to watch and allows us to empathize with their characters on so many levels. Jorge’s Norah was sweet and caring yet stern and assertive, while Yu’s Charles was charming and creative but unmotivated and unsure of himself. They were absolutely brilliant; they made Norah and Charles feel like real people, not just characters whose lives we were watching from afar. Norah’s pleas for help, even as she’s destroying the living room, brought tears to my eyes. Charles’ dream about being a rock star was one of my favourite moments of the play. They are powerhouse performers and they certainly deserved the immediate standing ovation they received.

            Bad Parent is must-see theatre, hands down, no doubt about it. Having enjoyed “Kim’s Convenience” so much while it was on TV, I was already quite excited about seeing what else Ins Choi had in store, and this new play did not disappoint whatsoever. It runs until October 9th in the Michael Young Theatre. For more information and tickets visit: Soulpepper Theatre – Plays, Concerts & Musicals‎


Photo by Dahlia Katz

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