Prostitutes for the American Dream

NTS Revives Albee’s Absurdism

Costume sketches for Everything in the Garden.

Nearly 50 years before shoppers were pepper-spraying each other to get at the best sale, legendary American playwright Edward Albee wrote a dark adaptation of Giles Cooper’s Everything in the Garden – a scathing critique of the era’s growing consumerism. The National Theatre School’s English graduating class is presenting the play next week, chosen and co-directed by award-winning choreographer Susanna Hood and Stratford director Jennifer Tarver.

Hood and Tarver wanted to find a play that would accommodate a sizable cast, but also relate to the actors in it. Hood said that as the NTS students leave school in the next few months they’ll be in a period of self-discovery, putting their skill to test in the real world. The play has themes which parallel that sense of searching.

“One of the things about this play that was appealing, in terms of working with younger actors, was that the majority of the characters in the play are in their late 30s, early 40s, [and] what they are going through is basically a second coming of age – a time when they’re questioning a lot about how to live, what they consider to be a good life, what their priorities are” Hood said.

Through Hood’s extensive dance experience the students have benefited from her knowledge of movement with intention – something they use to relay subtext and emotion to the crowd.

“We’ve done some of the blocking by approaching it as a movement piece specifically and then reducing it to place it more within the context of the language of the scene,” she said.

In the play, characters struggle to project a certain level of material success with limited finances. The housewives of American-dream suburbia turn to secret prostitution to finance their idealistic veneer. It’s a juxtaposition that serves Albee’s career-spanning criticism of modern attitudes.

Hood noted that the play is “equally dark and humorous. And it’s a very symbiotic relationship between both of those shades – they need to be equal for it to work.” But dark comedy is just one of the layers Albee wove in.

Jack, a ghost who serves as a kind of Greek chorus, adds surrealistic flair to the show while he fills the audience in with background information, and describes twists of fate happening offstage.

Albee once said, “Most people don’t want art to be disturbing. They want it to be escapist. I don’t think art should be escapist. That’s a waste of time.” But between Everything in the Garden’s ever-relevant themes of consumerism over substance, combined with a ‘60s rendition of its extremes, NTS may be openly delivering both.

Everything in the Garden / The Monument-National (1182 St Laurent Blvd.) / Dec, 13 – 17 / Tickets: $9 Box Office (514) 871-2224 more info