Things I Know To BE True is an outstanding play by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell and it is now playing at the CAA Theatre in Toronto. Don’t waste your time with other duties: see this amazing production.
Bovell builds his play around a happy, loving family that lives in a suburb and all is going well. Bob and Fran Price have four grown-up children who will bring problems that Bob and Fran never expected when they dreamed of the “usual” progression of life through love, marriage and grandchildren. Fate does not always arrange matters as dreamt.
The play begins with a monologue by Rosie (Alanna Bale), the youngest child of a startling incident that she was involved in. She is on the verge of adulthood and went to Europe where she met a beautiful Spanish lad who bedded her and proceeded to steal her money and other possessions and disappear. She returns home distraught but the family supports her and the ugly incident is put behind.
The family gets together upon Rosie’s return and we hear a great deal of family minutiae that resonate with most people. Dealing with a coffee maker, bringing chickens for dinner, recalling old incidents and numerous other mundane events, many repetitive ones, that make up family life.
But some events are not mundane at all and the picture of the happy family begins to show fissures. Pip (Christine Horne), the oldest is married to a wonderful man and they have two children. But she has fallen out of love with her husband and is leaving him, to go live with another man.
Mark (Michael Derworiz) looks effeminate, and his parents suspect that he is gay. But it goes much further than that. To the utter shock of his parents, Mark reveals that he is transgender and wants to change his sex. He calls himself Mia and in the final scene appears wearing a dress. He is starting a new life away from home.
Ben (Daniel Maslany) is a successful worker in the financial services sector. But he is greedy and, worse, has become a drug addict. He has siphoned off a small fortune from his employer and may end up in jail.
Rosie too wants to spread her wings and leaves the family to go live in another city.
Fran (Seana McKenna) has diverted a large amount of money from the family expenses just in case she separated from her husband Bob (Tom McCamus). Unlike her daughter Pip, she stayed in the marriage for the sake of the children. She had an unconsummated affair with a patient in the hospital where she works as a nurse.
Rosie has decided that she wants to break away from her parents and plans to drive a long way away from her parents.
The father seems befuddled by what is happening around him. It seems he was not aware of the issues facing the family in the past and has difficulty comprehending the present. He is happy tending his garden and all he wants is for his children to grow up, marry and provide him with grandchildren
The vision of a once happy, working class family that is now falling apart is a mirage. There have been unresolved issues all along but they were hidden or camouflaged, or temporarily ignored but they were always there and life somehow went on.
The genius of the play is the intricate integration of the mundane events of life with the tragic occurrences that separate and destroy the family. The great success of the production is the ability of director Philip Riccio to present all the details of this family’s banal and tragic events in a coherent, realistic, credible and superb manner. He has two great actors in McKenna and McManus who show masterly intonation, gesture, movement and emotional gauge through the comic, the dramatic and the tragic parts of the play.
Bale, Derworiz, Horne and Maslany give outstanding performances as Bob and Fran’s children. The issues that develop between them and the parents are never resolved.
The set by Shannon Lea Doyle consists of an ordinary kitchen on one side and a garden on the other side. The latter is the symbol of happy and perhaps not so happy memories in the life of the Price family.
This is an outstanding production with its superb cast that captures the humour, drama and tragedy of the one family and provides marvelous theatre.
Things I Know To Be True by Andrew Bovell in a coproduction by David Mirvish and The Company Theatre will run until February 19, 2023 at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario.