Cathy-Ann (a straight, Black woman) and Marc (a gay, white man) are best friends and roommates, living in a nice downtown Toronto condo. We open on them on morning of the 2016 Pride Parade. There is a buoyant atmosphere and their playful, easy banter is comforting and familiar. What follows is the heartbreaking collapse of their friendship in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protest. Every Day She Rose, presented by Nightwood Theatre, is thorough and empathetic examination of this watershed moment in the lives of our Black and Queer communities.
As their differing perspectives on the BLM protest reveal deep and festering anxieties about race, sexuality and allyship—Cathy-Ann and Mark are forced to address their frustrations, insecurities and anger. Like an electric charge, their gut reactions to the event spark a series of fiery accusations and plaintive declarations. Racism and homophobia on the intimate scale of friendship are at the forefront of this dual storyline, with social activism and artistic responsibility elegantly suspended from that frame. It is exhilarating to see the situation unfold in a resounding clash of relatable attitudes.
Playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green have crafted a storyline that is in equal parts tense, poignant and hilarious. This isn’t just the story of Cathy-Ann and Mark though; Scott and Green have woven the writing process itself into the narrative. This meta device has been done to death, with varying degrees of artistic finesse, and it too often feels like a gimmick. Here though, even the offhand references to grant proposals and casting concerns—though amusing—come off as familiar and authentic instead of cheeky or indulgent.
Both the fictional storyline and the elaborate deconstruction of it are thrillingly insightful. The mutual admiration and underlying ideological tension that defines the Andrea/Nick creative dynamic echoes throughout the fraught Cathy-Ann/Mark friendship and both hold equal dramatic weight.
One of my favourite sequences shows us one of their structural brainstorm sessions in which, with a perfect visual of story-cards laid out on the floor, we see how marginalized perspectives can be gradually, inadvertently, diminished or erased from theatrical expression.
The shifts from the Cathy-Ann/Mark story to the Andrea/Nick story are simple and distinctive. Designers Cosette Pin (sound) and Rebecca Picherack (lighting) create a vivid contrast between the warmth of the fictional friendship and the cooler, more utilitarian feel of the creator scenes. Directors Andrea Donaldson and Sedina Fiati further this aesthetic distance with blocking that keeps Andrea and Nick on the fringes of the condo set, able to access it yet reluctant to inhabit that space or the physical intimacy that characterizes the Cathy-Ann/Mark’s relationship.
Monica Peter (Cathy-Ann/Andrea) and Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (Mark/Nick), both intensely charismatic performers, have such persuasive chemistry together. And it is impressive to see how fluidly they shift from Cathy-Ann/Mark to Andrea/Nick, giving each a distinct, equally compelling energy.
The finale is more downbeat than I expected, though there is a distinct aura of healthy, collaborative potential hovering in the darkness. There is a warning too, in this persuasive examination of identity politics, of the intimate and personal cost of progress. Every Day She Rose highlights the urgency with which we need to be aware of and attentive to the experiences of our human neighbours and build bridges over those chasms that threaten to divide and destroy us.