Canadian Stage is kicking off their mainstage 2022/23 season with Olivier Choinière’s Public Enemy. Adapted by Bobby Theodore and directed by Brendan Healy, Public Enemy uniquely explores humanity via family dinners and the chaos they inevitably create. Starring masters of their craft and brilliant newcomers, Public Enemy is unlike anything I’ve experienced and it is absolutely riveting.
The way that Julie Fox was able to use the Berkley Street Theatre space was extremely impressive; with the revolve on a raised stage and the black walls forcing our perspective solely onto the action, it gave the illusion of watching the play on a wide-screen TV. It really does focus all of our attention onto the actors and give the space the closeness that the characters would be feeling as the discord between them grows. The revolve stage allows us to move seamlessly from one room to the next quickly, and the way it’s used in a fight between the two brothers was totally blew my mind.
The first part of Public Enemy evoked memories of essentially every family gathering that I’ve ever had at my aunt and uncle’s house. With the adults in one room, having several conversations around the same table, and the children wreaking havoc in the next, I have a feeling many others will be able to relate as well. I loved that what they were talking about was very topical as well; realistically you could adjust their conversations to match whatever the socio-political climate is or the location. Although in doing so you’d lose some delightfully and uniquely Canadian quips. What I enjoyed about the later portion was how the tone totally shifted once a not-blood family member was introduced. Suzie, Daniel’s girlfriend, commanded the room, and it’s not until the chaos of the children brings them back to their old family dynamic that the chatter starts again. The way James eggs Suzie on had me howling; there was no question about his thoughts on this new addition to the family. The animosity between the adults is clearly reflected in their children, with a ‘biting’ twist.
The cast of Public Enemy is an acting masterclass featuring Rosemary Dunsmore as the matriarch Elizabeth, with Jonathan Goad, Matthew Edison, and Michelle Monteith as her children James, David, and Melissa. Their ability to convey everything we need to know about these characters while creating this cacophony of conversation was a marvel. Accompanied by the stellar performances of Finley Burke as James’ son Tyler, Maja Vujicic as Melissa’s daughter Olivia and Amy Rutherford as Suzie, they compliment and mirror the other actors’ energy and tone perfectly. Collectively, they feel like a real family; you truly get this feeling of being a fly on the wall on these two very important and yet very strange nights in their family history. The honesty and frankness that they all brought to their roles gave it that feeling and it made for an engrossing night of theatre.
Public Enemy is a poignant and provocative piece of theatre which you cannot miss! It has just been extended to October 8th at the Berkely Street Theatre. For more information and tickets visit: Public Enemy / Canadian Stage
(L to R) Rosemary Dunsmore, Amy Rutherford, Matthew Edison, Jonathan Goad, Michelle Monteith
Photo by Dahlia Katz