Marion Bridge

Theatre Aezir Shines in Story of Sisterhood with MacIvor’s Modern Canadian Classic

Reviewed by Eden Eidt

Upon first glance, Marion Bridge is a story that has been told repeatedly—the tale of sisters coming together in a time of hardship is something we find familiar thanks to well-beloved classic authors, such as Austen and Alcott. This play, however, accomplishes something beyond expectation in its unique treatment of female characters and sharp dialogue, both of which are expertly explored in Theatre Aezir’s production.

Multi award-winning Canadian playwright, Daniel MacIvor, tells the story of Agnes (Carolyn Grace Hall), an actress struggling with alcoholism from Toronto, who returns to her family home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia because of her mother’s failing health. There, she is met by her two younger sisters who have stayed in their hometown to take care of their mother, Theresa (Karalyn Riepert) and Louise (Jessica Pereira). As tensions arise between them, the sisters’ journey through discoveries about themselves and each other leads them to revisit their mother’s favourite place, Marion Bridge. Marion Bridge is presented by Theatre Aezir on the Procunier Hall stage at the Palace Theatre in London, Ontario.

Director Mike Semple leads the production and facilitates an intimate engagement between the audience and actors in the small, black box theatre. Each performer in this small cast sustains this feeling throughout the show and paints a beautifully intimate understanding of their character with precision and clarity. Hall is a dynamic force throughout the production, displaying her refined physical and vocal talents as the eldest sister throughout the performance, cultivating some raw moments as she navigates Agnes’s new relationship with her daughter, who she gave up for adoption because of teenage pregnancy. Riepert is quiet, but incredibly touching, as Theresa, the middle sister, a nun who navigates the nuances of forgiveness through the mediation of her family. Pereira stole my heart through her earnest portrayal of the offbeat youngest sibling, Louise, and her desire for belonging.

The costumes, designed by artistic director Elizabeth Durand, tell a distinct story about each character as well. The metropolitan Agnes initially appears starkly out-of-place in a jean jacket, slip-dress, and heels in contrast with the modest, rural farmhouse and her small-town family. A compelling moment occurs when she emerges in the second act clad in a flannel and sweatpants, which hints at her gradual assimilation into her family and their community.

The backdrop is meticulously painted to show a bookshelf stacked with books and family knickknacks–beside it is a growth chart from the sisters’ childhood. A basket hangs above the illustrated bookshelf, somewhat distracting from the rest of the 2D elements, and I wonder if the set could be restricted to the kitchen table and chairs, placed centre-stage in the backbox space. There was also a minor lighting cue mishap, but that did not detract from the actors’ brilliant performances in the scene occurring onstage.

Despite these slight criticisms regarding lighting and set design, the show demonstrates an immense level of polish for a nonprofit, up-and-coming professional theatre company. The exceptional talents of Theatre Aezir highlight the importance of support and spaces for emerging artistic corporations. Marion Bridge probes the complexities of loneliness, acceptance, and family through humour and heartache expertly teased out by stellar acting from the cast and a strong vision from the creative team.

Marion Bridge continues with six shows a week at the Palace Theatre, Dundas Street, London, Ontario until March 10. Call the box office at (519) 432-1029 or visit this link for tickets.
Note: Audience members who are aged 30 and under can get tickets online for $25, inclusive of fees.

Photo: Carolyn Grace Hall as Agnes, Jessica Pereira as Louise, and Karalyn Riepert as Theresa. Photo by Andrea DaCosta.

Marion Bridge
By Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Mike Semple
Performed by Carolyn Grace Hall, Jessica Pereira, Karalyn Riepert.
Palace Theatre, 710 Dundas Street, London, Ontario.
February 29, 2024 to March 10, 2024.
Reviewed by Eden Eidt


Sign up here if you would like to receive notice when news, reviews, and musings are posted. You can unsubscribe at any time.