Magnus Theatre’s second offering of the 2012-2013 season is Freedom
85!, light-hearted fare that examines the emotional and occasionally
humourous trials of aging and the sometimes uncomfortable perspective
that looking back on times past can bring. Freedom 85! features Andrea
Risk and playwright Debra Hale in multiple characterizations though
their performances are rooted in the elderly Sybil and the younger
Kate respectively.

Sybil has removed herself from a retirement home which she refers to
as “The Morgue.” It is a place of spiritual and emotional decay, one
for which she considers herself, at age 85, too young. A chance
encounter with the younger and lacking in confidence Kate at a diner.
Sensing understanding and some common ground despite their age
difference, Sybil hires Kate to be her personal assistant. It is a job
for which the well-meaning Kate is woefully under qualified, and Sybil
has yet to come to terms with the life of assisted independence at the
retirement home that was forced upon her. Through flashbacks with a
series of quirky characters embodied by the actresses themselves the
exposition of both Sybil’s and Kate’s origins proves the common ground
both women share.

Playwright Debra Hale presents a likeable Kate, a woman whose missteps
in life have so far defined her. It is easy to empathize with her.
Andrea Risk gives a touching and familiar performance as Sybil. It is
familiar in the sense that Risk portrays her Sybil with many
affectations one can recognize in an elderly woman he or she may know.
Both Hale and Risk make believable transformations into distinctive
supporting characters who punctuate the challenges facing the two main
characters. The set design by Steve Lucas is minimalistic, employing
the use of projections to establish background setting while requiring
the audience to use their imagination to fill in the rest. A smart
lighting design by Jennifer Kasper serves the story well, bringing the
audience in closer especially in scenes of a WW2 bomb raid and, later,
a wedding reception.

An animated and lively theatrical experience, Freedom 85! runs at
Magnus Theatre through November 3. Contact the box office at 345-5552
or book online at

By Kyle Poluyko

Photos:Barry Wojciechowski