Like opening a perfect tiny Christmas present, the Solo Collective production of After Jerusalem is so bursting with surprises and delight that you’ll wish all your future gifts were as funny, poignant and beautifully performed.
In Vancouver playwright Aaron Bushkowsky’s new script, we eavesdrop on the holiday romance of forty-something Carol, a school teacher from Regina and Vladimir, the ten-years-younger Russian émigré who now processes tourists through the metal detector at the entrance to Bethlehem. As they spend Carol’s vacation exploring Jerusalem and themselves, the duo gradually finds a connection beyond the series of lies that brought them together in the first place.
Deborah Williams brings real doubt and vulnerability to Carol’s search for some meaning as she attempts to deal with her mid-life crisis half-way around the world. Williams plays this role to perfection, and while I had the smallest of thoughts that I had seen this character from her before, the feeling quickly faded as she drew me into her world.
Andrew McNee (pictured right) is equally as terrific as Vladimir, on his own quest for meaning and finding it in an unlikely connection with Carol. A wonderful combination of bravado and pain, Vladimir may not all what he seems but as played by McNee he becomes sympathetic without being maudlin. There is a playfulness about him that is as mesmerizing as his smile.
Director Rachel Peake keeps the show moving at a break neck pace with help from lighting designer Itai Erdal. In the awkward Performance Works space there were a few moments where the hulking McNee blocked Williams from view, but thankfully these were short-lived. Erdal’s white draped set echoes the unlikely Jerusalem snow, although with the strength of the two actors this could have easily been played on a bare stage.
I went in knowing absolutely nothing about this show (not usually something I do before reviewing a play) but in this instance I’m glad I did. With many surprises and bright shiny moments all wrapped within two beautiful performances, give yourself an early Christmas present and un-wrap After Jerusalem for yourself.
By Aaron Bushkowsky. Directed by Rachel Peake. A Solot Collective Theatre production. On stage at Performance Works on Granville Island through December 11, 2011. Visit http://solocollective.ca for tickets and information.