Taking Off by Deborah Williams at the Belfry Theatre February 21-March 12, 2017. A review.

Taking Off by Deborah Williams at the Belfry Theatre February 21-March 12, 2017. A review.

Deborah Williams hasn’t lost the touch.  If anything, after tapping into the zeitgeist for over 20 years, her comedic talents, already finely honed, reach vertiginous heights with zany, over-the-top reflections in her first solo show Taking Off (at the Belfry Theatre until March 12th).

I remember sitting in the audience for the initial Mom’s the Word of which she was one of five co-creators, laughing until I cried at the antics of moms who had to be looking over my shoulder—this was MY life too. This past season, a group of us, older now and slightly wiser, promised a young mom she would laugh (and maybe pee a little) for the remounting of this classic (directed by Williams herself) with a cast of new actors.  At the intermission, she confirmed our assessment.

With her great gift for the craziness of everyday life Williams has created a funny, likeable and relatable character in Minnie, a middle-aged, mildly medicated wife and mother. From the moment she turns her back on the audience to frantically scribble a reminder on her eternal list, we are hooked.  Laugh follows laugh in the seemingly never-ending litany of trials and tribulations with husband, child and friend.

Carol Klemm’s set design and painting is a landscape come to life—light and airy, it hints at wide open spaces and levity.  Under the brush strokes of Brian Kenney’s lighting design it glows and darkens to highlight Minnie’s interior state. Malcolm Dow’s sound design adds notes of realism—the pinging of cellphone reminders—and fantasy—the ka-thunk of objects being discarded in ritual purging.  Erin Macklem’s costume sets Minnie firmly among the ranks of mom-hood.

Belfry Theatre Taking Off by Deborah Williams 2017Deborah Williams in Taking Off. Photo: Don Craig

Recruiting willing audience members to illustrate her observations—uniformly on opening night participants complied with gusto, engaging fully–Williams expounds on marital relations, the joys of shopping while on vacation and the challenges of big-box-stores. Life is not easy but through it all, she has her faithful friend Maureen to buoy her spirits and bring balance.  In fact, to mark 25 years of friendship the two are headed on a celebratory vacation.

Things come to a crashing halt, and the action takes a twist when Minnie’s plans are thwarted at the airport by an expired passport.

Under the perceptive direction of James Fagan Tait, Williams then veers off into decidedly darker territory as Minnie unhinges in her insistent demands she be allowed to board. Like a toddler in full tantrum she will not be placated. In the end, her friendship in tatters, Minnie learns who she can rely on.  There is bedrock in the most unexpected of places.

Williams drives right to the heart of the matter—through all the prevarication and avoidance—when the chips are down, there are a handful of people to depend on. Taking Off is incredibly funny and touchingly poignant—well-crafted and with immense heart.

Taking Off by Deborah Williams (world premiere)
Belfry Theatre (Studio A)
1291 Gladstone Avenue
February 21-March 12, 2017
Tickets: $31.50 (festival seating)
250-385-6815 | boxoffice@belfry.bc.ca

Cast and Artists
Minnie Deborah Williams

Deborah Williams Playwright
James Fagan Tait Director
Carole Klemm Set Designer
Erin Macklem Costume Designer
Bryan Kenney Lighting Designer
Malcolm Dow Sound Designer
Jessica Schacht Stage Manager

Disclaimer:  I was provided with complimentary tickets to attend Taking Off.

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