In development for more than a decade by local playwright Dana Rayment, The Photo bravely faces what we’d rather ignore: grief. Mark (Michael Peng) and Gina (Elena Porter) are sharing a viscerally painful, all-consuming grief that has shattered their lives and sent them spiralling into confusion.
Peng and Porter are both compelling in this short two-hander as Mark and Gina go down two very different paths after an almost unspeakable tragedy happens in their family.
Gina has completely lost her bearings and her grip on reality, insisting she can see a future that will never be. She wants to cook—then she’s not hungry. She’s thirsty—but only wants Champagne, and then she gets lost in a memory of her first taste of Dom Pérignon.
That leaves Mark mostly alone to care for his wife—and to grapple with his own confusion over what he’s supposed to do. Who do you call when the worst happens? Your mom? Are you allowed to eat?
These complex emotional ideas are beautifully brought to life by Daniela Masellis’ set design and T Erin Gruber and Elijah Lindenberger’s projection work. The team uses 16mm black-and-white home movies and found footage and plays them over the action, adding texture and nuance to the emotional gymnastics Mark and Gina go through.
Gina becomes obsessed with the titular photo. The albums of her childhood are full of staged photographs, with her wearing nice dresses posed in the backyard on sunny days. Mark’s family took pictures that were out of focus or with fingers in the foreground, and showed him crying after he scraped his knee riding his bike.
Mark believes that his photos are more real. They captured truth: he looks at that photo of his scraped knee and remembers that he’d tried not to cry and that his aunt and grandma comforted him with cheese afterwards. Gina looks at her posed pictures and basically makes up fake memories, because her family photos—even though pretty to look at—blurred reality.
That’s the heart of The Photo: art can either reflect the pain that comes with the human experience or it can gloss over it with happy smiles. There’s no gloss to The Photo. It’s raw, it’s sad—it’s real.
Until Sat, May 23 (8 pm)
Directed by Michelle Kennedy
C103, $15 – $20