Sad things happen to nice people in this touching comedy-drama by American writer Clare Barron, a portrait of a family coming to terms with impending loss.
Freshly dismissed from her job as a lawyer, Mae has returned to her small town roots in the Pacific Northwest to care for her father, recently been diagnosed with cancer.
There’s a strong strand of self-care in her decision to come home, too. Her ex-boss was also her lover – classic double whammy – and now her professional and emotional life is fraying.
As it must, Mae’s homecoming releases all manner of long-dormant feelings, the most physically urgent of which are expressed in her erotic dreams (featuring a rough ridin’ cowboy) and the hesitant real-life relationship she forms with a local guy, Mac, who claims to remember her from their elementary school days.
He also has a thing for girls with dermatological issues, which is just as well; Mae’s inner turmoil is playing havoc with her skin.
Dad meanwhile, is undergoing radiation treatment for a cancerous nodule in his larynx. He seems quite upbeat about it, has met some wonderful people in hospital. The prognosis is good. For now.
Barron has a beguiling way with the inadequate lexicon we all depend on in difficult family situations and a gift for offbeat chitchat, most notably in a richly humorous scene that brings Mae and her three siblings to dad’s bedside to discuss, among other things, “the family smell” and penis-size preferences.
Like the plays of her contemporary Annie Baker (whose The Flick was recently staged at the Seymour Centre), this kind of writing demands pitch-perfect performances. We’re in good hands here. Director Claudia Barrie has cast this production very astutely.
Harriet Gordon-Anderson is outstanding as a dry-humoured young woman confronted with mortality at the exact same time she needs space to sort out her own existential crisis.
Steve Rodgers shines as Mae’s dad, a man whose frumpy, nice-guy manner masks significant dread. One of the play’s most touching scenes sees him doing his best to commune with Mae: “You’re aware that you’re having a nice moment,” he says. “That it’s a good moment in your life. But then how long should you let it go on, you know?”
Alex Beauman, Ainslie McGlynn and Sarah Meacham gel hilariously and believably as Mae’s siblings. Cody Ross’s Mac is very funny. Gareth Rickards struts his stuff entertainingly as Mae’s fantasy cowboy.
Played in traverse on a platform stage finished in clean pine panels (an Isabel Hudson design), You Got Older isn’t the most muscular family drama you’ll ever see but Barrie’s wisely understated production and cast’s truthfulness will gently grasp you, then move you.