It is rare to see a play about people in their sixties. Over time, one’s sense of the universe evolves and relationships change and mutate and At the Beginning of Time by Steve Galluccio, directed by Peter Hinto-Davis, is a play which addresses this bravely. One is met with a man on a hospital trolly with all the attendant machines surrounding him. The set is a kind of Renaissance mural replete with falling angels, and a gorgeous azure background. The music is classic and operatic and one’s expectations are huge.
The multi-talented Nadia Verrucci is delightful as Nella the nurse, attending the ailing main character, Michael (Richard Jutra). As the play is set just on the threshold of the COVID pandemic, we know that for Nella, a single mom and nurse who can hardly make ends meet and has to battle with deep exhaustion, the real fight ahead is going to be much much, worse.
Jutra plays the main character Michael with a quiet energy. He maintains our interest in spite of being tied to a catheter on a hospital stretcher for the entire work. His twisting and leaning is a kind of ballet of the hospital bed. This is a person who has lived through the horrors of the AIDS pandemic and lost a great number of his comrades in the trenches to indifferent government and hostile neighbours. Oddly his two buddies, (Stephan Lawson as Pat and Michael Miranda as Lou) are almost hostile when Michael says the AIDS pandemic was like the war of their parents when so many men his own age died. His pals are not the least bit sympathetic, and one wonders how one could have missed this point.
The actors playing Pat and Lou were awkward and uncomfortable looking and one felt that the position of the bed made it difficult for them not to be upstaged. There was little about their personae which could hold anyone’s interest. Pat whined endlessly about the loss of the “love of his life” to cancer, and how he had not been able overcome this loss, in spite of his many encounters on Tinder.
Lou is quietly distasteful and whines about dating a grandfather who has to miss hook-ups because he must babysit his grandchildren. When he finally breaks down and cries pitifully that he is so unlovable and that he has never been in a relationship, one can only respond that it is obvious to everyone else why this is so. Which begs the question, why would anyone write a full length play with these characters? Even the lead character says to his lover over the phone, “Yes they irritate me too”.
For almost two hours we listened to three gay men complaining about their lower-middle class childhoods, and their emotional travails. One is supposed to be a screenwriter, one a university professor and the third a supermarket manager. But in all their kibitzing and kvetching, there is no great insight or wisdom imparted. When the nurse finally comes on to tell them that visiting hours are over, one would have cheered, but Michael the main character has to do a long series of Facebook monologues which all begin with “Hi, it’s me.” After the huge expectations generated by the magnificent set by Michael Gianfrancesco and the music of Sound Designer Adam Capriolo, the play just does not deliver.
At the Beginning of Time is at the Centaur Theatre (453 St François Xavier) from February 21 to March 12. For tickets and info, click HERE.