A suicidal intruder falls into an upscale Condo and engages with the late-middle -aged-retired or soon-to-be-retired couple living there. What keeps Colleen Murphy’s The Goodnight Bird from slipping into sitcom format is the really terrific comic moments and the stellar acting under Roy Surette’s direction.
Christopher Hunt is convincing as the almost retired husband who is recovering from a recent heart attack. He is a perfect foil for the breakneck speed and huge reversals engaged in by his wife. The two actors play off each other, making their long relationship believable and very familiar to all who have shared bathrooms and beds.
Nicola Cavendish gives a performance which is hilarious and poignant. Her yearning to find adventure and love is so universal it sparks up the play. She is perfectly balanced as Lilly, and when her enormous changes come, she plays them with so much conviction and integrity that one is able to fully accept them. One can believe that this retired school teacher once talked a pistol-packing student into using his bullets on a clock and giving up his weapon to her. Cavendish is utterly delightful as she screams with fear at the home invasion one moment and pats her hair down in anticipation of seeing the intruder post-bath.
Graham Cuthbertson, well known to Montreal audiences, delivers a virtuoso performance as the homeless and very mad intruder. He is fearless and utterly within the skin of the poor suicidal person who lands in this bourgeois bastion by mistake. His turns are absolutely breathtaking and there is a moment when he takes Lily’s hand and places it on his chest that is pure, heart-breaking drama. Cuthbertson’s Emerson-spouting schizophrenic is believable and magically consistent.
There is a longish blackout about half-way through the play, and perhaps it should have been used as a natural break for an intermission. The second part is so dense with language that a break would have given a tiny respite to the audience. And by the end of it, one finds oneself wishing that Cuthbertson had been given a re-appearance, just to give things an extra jolt. Nevertheless, the final stretch is held up by the remarkable Cavendish and the intrepid Hunt, playing out this superbly performed production with a gentle, Albee-like dénouement of sorrows and regrets.
At Centaur Theatre to March 22
Anna Fuerstenberg is a writer, director, performer and teacher.