THEATRE

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Dar­ren Bare­foot

FAMED CANUCKS broad­caster Jim Robson al­ways used to say “a spe­cial hello” to the “shut-ins, those of you who can’t make it out to the game”. It’s these lat­ter peo­ple that The Ones We Leave Be­hind is con­cerned with—the old, the in­firm, and the for­got­ten.

Abby (Agnes Tong) and Greg (Jimmy Yi) work for the Pub­lic Guardian and Trustee, the pro­vin­cial agency that han­dles the es­tates of those who die with­out fam­ily or friends. Abby be­comes a lit­tle ob­sessed with her first case in the field, a woman who was dis­cov­ered dead in her Van­cou­ver apart­ment af­ter five months.

Abby is bull­headed as she spars with Greg over his 36 years of on­the-job wis­dom. Yet she’s no match for her mother (Alan­nah Ong), who lives in stub­born iso­la­tion and re­jects all the help that Abby of­fers.

Abby’s own cara­pace isn’t help­ing her re­la­tion­ship with her boyfriend, Kyle (Brahm Tay­lor), either. He’s try­ing to help her un­ravel the story of her ab­sent fa­ther, who left her and her mom when she was a child.

The el­der per­form­ers stand out in this pro­duc­tion. Ong has a dead­pan wit as she de­flects Abby’s ap­peals, never fall­ing into an easy stereo­type. I re­ally ad­mired Yi’s per­for­mance in Pa­cific Theatre’s re­cent Kim’s Con­ve­nience, so it was dis­may­ing to see him a lit­tle un­der­used here. He’s a bit of an at­ten­dant lord in The Ones We Leave Be­hind, not much more than a foil for Abby’s en­thu­si­asm.

There is a tidi­ness to the pro­duc­tion, which is a credit to di­rec­tor John Cooper and set de­signer Pam John­son. They stage the show in front of a se­ries of lay­ered apart­ment walls—the places in which we live and die. As the show pro­gresses, these feel more and more like mar­ble tomb­stones in a busy ceme­tery.

How­ever, Loretta Seto’s script dis­ap­points. It’s a clever idea, un­cov­er­ing the story of a dead recluse. That seed sug­gests all kinds of ex­cit­ing the­atri­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties: flash­backs, voices from the past, over­lap­ping time­lines. In­stead, the play’s struc­ture is very pedes­trian.

Like­wise, the play’s char­ac­ters seem to give voice to their ev­ery feel­ing and thought. This lack of sub­text makes for a wordy show and, par­tic­u­larly in the first act, slows the ac­tion down. Seto can trust more to skilled per­form­ers, who will find so much to ex­press be­tween the lines.

Do these short­com­ings thwart the pro­duc­tion? Not quite. You may need some pa­tience with the play’s early scenes. But the ac­tion and en­ergy pick up in the sec­ond half and ex­plore some un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory.

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