Smackhead by Nastasia Pappas-Kemps and directed by Amanda Goldberg is a very engaging play about three very flawed human beings. The most complex is Ramona, the over achieving heroin addict who gets clean and becomes a registered nurse. Her monologues at the beginning and end are both ironic and satisfying. The performance of Cleopatra Boudreau was a delight. There were so many ways she might have overplayed her hand, particularly in scenes with her dealer/lover Foster. Boudreau manages to be convincing as she slips into love with a trust fund college student who encourages her to take the heroin.
Ramona’s first and very serious patient is Faith, a seventeen-year old girl with cervical cancer. There are so many opportunities for this to be played for the maudlin issues, but Skylar Clark gives a sharp performance that calls for tears that are both honest and unsentimental. Her obsession with Ramona is utterly believable and moves from curiosity to envy to rage with fluidity.
Simon Pelletier who plays Foster the wealthy kid cum dealer, has less to work with. His character is the least evolved and the dialogue is stiff, as though he is created as a foil for the two women but has no actual substance as a persona. Pelletier does a lot with what little he is granted.
Pappas-Kemps is mature playwright and the beats and scenes were all on the mark. I was a little disappointed by the writing for Foster; he was not as compelling as Faith and Ramona. These two are so solidly realized that one must also say the directing was done with an unwavering hand by Amanda Goldberg. The Free Standing Room at the top of two flights of stairs, is a very quirky space, yet Goldberg manages the blocking with evident skill. Even so, there are projections which those seated on stage left could not see. I hope they were not important. I would not ordinarily imagine that any work about heroin would have such an emotional impact. It is the perfect play for this quirky space and overall it is a success.
Smackhead is at l’Espace Freestanding (4324 St Laurent, ste 300) from March 1 – 11. Details HERE.