Of Human Bondage
Dan Chameroy as Cronshaw (left), Gregory Prest as Philip (centre) and Oliver Dennis as Lawson (right) shine in a tale of regrets, second chances and new beginnings. Based on W. Somerset Maugham’s celebrated novel, ‘Of Human Bondage’ runs until May 17.

Deeply Moving & Immeasurably Stylized

One might think that if a play starts off with a stripped down stage environment and a hanging skeleton, chances are the presentation is on a mission to get down to the bare essentials of matters. This is precisely the case with the richly layered and pleasantly entertaining Of Human Bondage holding audiences captive in the Distillery.

And if you’re really honest with yourself acknowledging the fact you’ve probably fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love, bound by a person incapable of loving you back, then there’s highly familiar tumult worthy of analysis in Vern Thiessen’s strikingly beautiful adaptation.

Meet Philip Carey (Gregory Prest), a club footed medical student with a gift for painting who’s future looks promising with a 3 pound a week Physician’s Assistant career horizon awaiting him. That is until Mildred (Michelle Monteith) causes a necessary distraction from his studies.

He can’t live with mediocrity; it’s all or nothing for him. Philip’sPhilip’s physical disability causes no barriers for the romance in bloom yet Mildred’s emotional impairment creates a wall of frustration to which there is no bypass in view. Does she know right from wrong or are her actions purposeful?

Life moves on for the protagonist who is rewarded for ‘6 months of hard labour’ when Nora (Sarah Wilson) enters the picture. Caring, unselfish, easy to please, she proves to be the antithesis of the stubborn, cold, and disconnected love interest that came before her.

When Mildred makes a surprising return asking for forgiveness, an empathetic Phillip appears to have no choice except to follow his heart.

Despite obvious thematic hooks with lines such as ‘What do any of us really want?’ and ‘People who work the hardest get paid the least…” you can never really tell where Of Human Bondage is headed. A poignant conclusion suggesting that we are all living pieces of art with elements of hurt and pain simply adding colour to the canvas is about as heartwarming as it gets.

Thankfully director Albert Schultz takes nothing for granted in this deeply moving story that serves as an immeasurably stylized artistic accent in the Soulpepper Theatre Company repertoire. Never before has the company ventured into meticulous design territory like this and it would be truly regrettable if it doesn’t do so again sooner rather than later.

Review by Steven Berketo


OF HUMAN BONDAGE
By Vern Thiessen
Apr. 15 – May 17, 2014
Young Centre for the Performing Arts
50 Tank House Lane, Toronto
Tickets $29.00 – $74.00
416-866-8666
www.soulpepper.ca

CAST: Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Dan Chameroy, Oliver Dennis, Raquel Duffy
John Jarvis, Richard Lam, Jeff Lillico, Michelle Monteith, Gregory Prest, Paolo Santalucia and Sarah Wilson

DIRECTOR: Albert Schultz

2 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Kevin on May 12, 2014

    I have soooooo lived Philip’s life it’s not funny. There’s always a succubus out there that’s bad news for you. But life carries on.

  2. Theo on May 15, 2014

    Was I the only one bummed out that Sarah Wilson’s character Nora didn’t get back together with Philip? is there no justice in this world?

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?