Small town horrors on stage at the GCTC

By Dana Townsend

Fans of Canadian playwright Judith Thompson might be fooled by the serene opening of Perfect Pie into thinking Thompson has left her trademark dark drama behind. Although it’s gentler in some ways, “the central event is not gentle at all,” Thompson says.

“It’s a surprising play, because it starts very gently, and then goes to a much darker place.”

Perfect Pie, which opened this week at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, tells the story of two childhood friends, Patsy and Francesca, who grow up as outcasts in Marmora, a small town west of Ottawa. A horrifying incident in Francesca’s life drives the two girls to run down the train tracks in a suicide pact. What happens next is shrouded in mystery – Patsy stays, but Francesca disappears and cuts off all communication with her best friend.

Originally commissioned by the CBC, Perfect Pie started out as a monologue. But the piece was so popular Thompson developed it into a play two years ago.opening to mixed reviews in Toronto.

When Lorne Pardy, artistic director at the GCTC, heard about Perfect Pie he snapped it up.

“I love Judith Thompson as a playwright,” says Pardy, adding that he was attracted to the simplicity and uncluttered feel of this play.

Kate Hurman, who plays the adult Patsy, jumped at the chance to appear in one of her plays. Hurman describes her character as “a woman who seems to be very simple on the surface, but there’s all these complex emotions raging through her.”

“We’re not a culture terribly adapted to handling big issues,” says Hurman. Perfect Pie explores the incredible depths of friendship, the branding experiences of childhood and the horrors of everyday life that can happen even in small towns.

But in this dark drama there is a ray of light, Hurman points out.

“I think, funnily enough, it’s a message of hope… We must always have hope, or we have nothing. It’s as simple and complex as that,” she says.

Perfect Pie has also played in northern Ontario, Calgary and Philadelphia. It is also being adapted into a film by Toronto’s Rhombus Media, the same company that produced The Red Violin.The play runs until April 13. For tickets call 236-5196.