Nov./Dec. 2004
Small Returns
Written by Jacob Richmond Directed by Michael Kessler
November 19 – December 5, 2004 Theatre Passe Muraille Toronto
“We are born astride the grave,” writes Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot. Our mother, naked, straddles an open grave; our life happens as we fall from her vulva into the waiting pit. Jacob Richmond’s brilliant new comedy, Small Returns, which previewed at Theatre Passe Muraille last night, is built on a similar premise.

The hero, played by Jordan Pettle, lies dead as the stage lights come up, in the same spot where he lies dead as the stage goes dark at the play’s end. He arises from death, goes through the events of his life in a semi-dazd state, awakening as he approaches “Showtime”, his fall to death from a roof-top, during which he experiences true love.

John Clelland and Jordan Pettle
His life is epitomized during a day when his job as a debt collector requires him to do two distasteful things: repossess a television set from a recently bereaved widow who he discovers is a childhood friend; and repossess an artificial leg from a wealthy woman who simply refuses to pay for or surrender the leg because the world‘ owes her one’ for blowing off her leg when she was a child in Germany at the end of WW2.

All of this darkly farcical material is played out on a set that resembles a rooftop, but resourcefully serves as a sidewalk, office, and apartments of the two debtors. The pervasive musical leitmotif of Irving Berlin’s 1918 wartime song “O How I hate to get up in the morning,” reminds us that life is war and waking up is hard to do.

Everything about this production is wakeful: the direction moves from surprise to surprise; the actors are all unfailing springs of refreshment and delight. This is a marvelous production of a wonderfully funny play.

Stanley Fefferman for The Live Music ReportPhotograph by Rodrigo Moreno
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