A play about the ways in which the lives of six people are affected by love, loss and memory debuts this week at the Sterling Studio Theatre in Toronto.
A Life Beyond Doubt, directed by lindi g. papoff and written by Carol Libman, focuses on the relationship between Elizabeth, a 30-something divorcee coping with the recent death of her mother, and Tom, a widower in his late 40s and a father to two teenaged boys, who is hesitant to let Elizabeth in.
Libman, a Montreal native who began her writing career as a sports reporter for the Montreal Gazette, explained that A Life Beyond Doubt evolved from a one-act play she wrote called Connections.
“It started out with one scene – a mother-daughter scene… At the time, the play was called Connections because of the way they were connected. As I keep saying, everyone wanted to know what was going to happen next, including me. The characters didn’t want to leave the stage, and I had to continue, so I started writing more scenes, dialogue,” said Libman, 85, who has been involved in theatre since she moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in 1949 and joined the Sault Theatre Workshop.
When Libman moved back to Montreal seven years later, she helped establish the Playwrights Workshop Montreal, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Libman, who now lives in Toronto, is an active member of the New Play Development Group of the Alumnae Theatre. She said her latest project, A Life Beyond Doubt, is about history, memory and relationships.
“It involves how memory affects you, and if you don’t have memory about something, you have no idea. But if you do have memories of something similar, how do you react? How do you absorb that and go forward? We ask a lot of questions,” she said.
“One of the main characters, Elizabeth, who is the daughter, meets a man who is a widower with two boys and they become involved, and then there are questions because they have baggage.”
Libman said a major theme in the play is “the way people carry memories but manage to find ways of coping and moving on because otherwise you’re paralyzed. You have to move forward, no matter what happens to you. What choice do you have?”
Shel Goldstein, who plays the role of Marge, a woman in her early 70s who was a close family friend of Tom’s late wife, said that when she thinks about what the play is about, “loss is the word that keeps coming up – different ways of how people in their lives lose what is most beloved to them and different ways of dealing with that, or coping.”
Although the play centres on the dynamic between Elizabeth and Tom, another interesting relationship develops between Marge and Tom’s 14-year-old son, Kevin.
“He tells her things that he doesn’t tell other people. She’s not closely related, but she’s available, so that is an unusual relationship on stage for a non-relative – she’s not his grandmother – and it sort of fills a void for her, too,” Goldstein said.
Beyond creating deep relationships between the characters, Goldstein said Libman also succeeded in writing realistic, relatable dialogue.
“Carol has this wonderful facility of dialogue and humour, and I think what I love most about her writing is the nuance of capturing an argument, of how someone will say something but it’s not quite heard, and then they build on their misunderstanding,” she said.
“In my life experience, we get caught up in the heat of the moment and we miss the point, and if that can be repaired, that’s great, but sometimes those things can’t be repaired.”
Although the writer, director and two of the actors are Jewish, this isn’t a Jewish story.
“But it’s a story about people, relationships, loss, which is a universal, common experience… It’s entertaining and touching,” Goldstein said.
The play, presented by Tomorrow’s Eve Theatre, runs from March 6 to15 at the Sterling Studio Theatre. For more information, visit www.tomorrowsevetheatre.org or call 1-800-838-3006, ext 1.