Theatre Review: The Little Years
By Allan Gould
The Little Years plays until Dec. 16
The Little Years, by Toronto playwright John Mighton, is a deeply moving and profound study of a woman who is crushed by family and society. Running at the venerable Tarragon Theatre until Dec. 16, it is well worth the trip.
Mighton is a renowned mathematician who received his doctorate from the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Toronto and is founder of the JUMP educational math program and an all-around smarty-pants. But, arithmetic aside, the guy has serious might in his pen. His plays are intelligent, poetic and oh-so memorable.
We all know there is a strong link between mathematics and music, but the admirable Mighton is proving that mathematics and theatre can be sisters as well.
In The Little Years, we first see a bright young teenager, Kate, bursting with curiosity about time, infinity and science, and last see her as an embittered, frustrated woman edging into old age. Our hearts break watching a life wasted before our very eyes, due to stupid and cruel condescension of both men and women.
The central role of Kate is played as a precocious 14-year-old by Bethany Jillard, and later as a mentally ill, cold, aging adult by Irene Poole, who is as superb an actress in this present production as she was at Stratford. Chick Reid shines again as Kate’s clueless mother, as does the always satisfying Victor Ertmanis in several roles that help chip away at the young woman’s confidence.
Mighton is an inspired playwright, filling this exquisite, sad and ultimately enthralling work with musings about time: “Time could be speeding up or slowing down right now!” the young Kate declares excitedly, wondering later, “Why do we remember the past and not the future?”
We shiver when we hear Kate’s mother stating later in the play, “She’s running out of time.” And when we hear the ticking of a clock grow louder and louder, we shudder, seeing this life almost snuffed out by the world around her.
“Every day feels like an eternity,” Kate says in middle age. Later, she declares, “There’s something I want, but I don’t know what it is.” Yet the end is uplifting: a niece of Kate’s becomes lovingly obsessed with her elderly aunt, and it is difficult to hold back tears.
The Little Years is a wonderful evening of theatre, directed sensitively by Chris Abraham. Bravo to all involved and to Tarragon for bringing it to us from Stratford. Every teacher and parent should see this play.
The Little Years, Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave., 416-536-5018. Now-Dec. 16