|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 Richmonds 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 plays 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.
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 Berlins 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.