Review: Bitter Rose

Bitter Rose hits hard.

click to enlarge SAMM FISHER
Samm Fisher

Rose is 43 years old, married, a mother, and has all the obvious fixings for a life that is content and fulfilling. And yet, she is unhappy, she is discontent, she is bitter in the way a lifetime accommodating demands and expectations can make someone bitter – especially, perhaps, a woman. In the moments we meet Rose, she is in the basement of her family home, finished reading the obituaries, wearing her wedding dress, and is clearly having a hard time. Rose’s breakdown (breakthrough and breakup seem just as apt) is the culmination of many things, but prompted most immediately by a line in a woman’s obituary: “She was an avid walker.” Was this woman, also a mother and wife like Rose, very passionate about exercise, that most innocuous of pastimes? Or is it that in walking, this woman found time for her interior life that was otherwise overridden?

What follows is a brutally honest tour-de-force that portrays a woman reflecting on her life and choices, the burdens of motherhood and marriage, the expectations placed on women, and also, not at all unrelated, what it takes to be an artist, a person who creates.

Kim Parkhill is astounding as Rose. She keeps the audience enraptured, giving glimpses into the depth of her character with a single glance or gesture. In one moment, sorrow bubbles, pooling tears in her eyes, and in the next it is dismissed with anger, or resolve, or evaded with a joke. Catherine Banks, two-time winner of the Governor General’s award for drama, has written a complex, challenging, and deeply feminist play. Parkhill and director Jake Planinc have taken the nuance off the page and staged a relevant and hard-hitting piece of theatre.

Bitter Rose
Matchstick Theatre
Written by Catherine Banks
Directed by Jake Planinc
Featuring Kim Parkhill
The Bus Stop Theatre
2203 Gottingen St.
June 8-11

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