Being told you shouldn’t or downright can’t do something at an idealistic, impressionable age can have a powerfully negative impact. It can become the dominant narrative; the voice is one’s head taunting “You can’t do anything right.” Such a narrative is at the heart of John Mighton’s moving drama The Little Years, now on stage at Magnus Theatre.
The Little Years opens with Alice (Linda Goranson), a mother trying to both understand and relate to her young daughter. Young Kate (Rachel Fischer), at the tender age of 14, already speaks longingly for future of possibilities yet is mournful of wasted moments of the past. Again, Alice does want to understand Kate, but on her own terms. It is 1957 and young girls aren’t supposed to aspire to the sciences or mathematics. Be pretty, she is told. Be quiet. Find a nice boy. Encourage him. A boy like her brother William, perhaps, to whom Alice cannot give enough praise. By 1974 the older Kate (Tennyson Loeh) is a frustrated and bitter woman who cannot hold a menial job. She is oppositional, lacking a filter in social situations and, as the 80s come about, becomes paralyzed by a deep depression in a mental health facility. Kate’s sister-in-law Grace (Alison Deon), herself an after thought of William, is the only one who truly makes an effort to reach out to Kate.
The first act of The Little Years is tight, focused and gripping. Tenneyson Loeh’s Kate is subtlety nuanced as she reveals the shades of Kate’s depression. Hers is a performance that is understated but not to be underestimated. Alison Dean as Grace exudes sympathy for Kate without condescension, and skillfully draws empathy for her own character. The second act drags somewhat, Kate being talked about more than she is seen as the focus seems to shift to Grace. However, with Kate and her talents all too easily dismissed in the first act, perhaps that is the design.
The Little Years, directed by Mario Crudo, is a fascinating and captivating drama onstage though March 16 at Magnus Theatre. Call 345-5552 for more information or book online at magnus.on.ca.