Their reunion is under dismal circumstances.
Teresa, Mary and Catherine’s mother, Vi, has died, and on the eve of her funeral, the three sisters meet after years of separation. Family tensions quickly arise, as the women argue over their differing memories of the same events.
All the while Vi, who is about to be laid to rest, comes back to haunt her daughters.
First performed in 1996, the play won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2000 and was adapted for the film Before You Go in 2002.
“The Memory of Water is well written. It evokes important themes about memory and families, but does so with subtlety,” said Fort Langley actress Virginia Cooke, who plays the role of Vi.
“It’s got a great deal of humour, much of it black humour as it often revolves around death and family dysfunction. I once read a line about some play that credited it with putting the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’ and this play does a bit of that.
“The characters are all struggling with loss, not just of their mother; they give each other a hard time, but there is a prevailing love that emerges as well.”
Cooke, a retired English professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, is one of six local actors cast in the play. Joining her are Alaina Holland (Surrey) as Teresa, Mary Ellen Shimell (Port Coquitlam) as Mary, TJ MacPherson (Maple Ridge) as Catherine, Reginald Pillay (Surrey) as Mike and Andy Wood (Langley) as Frank.
This is Cooke’s first involvement in community theatre, having joined Langley Players just over one year ago.
“I began acting in high school, but once in university, I really became an academic, not a theatre practitioner,” she explained.
“I wrote about plays (my Ph. D. thesis was in the field of Irish drama), and taught many English courses on Canadian drama, theatre history, Shakespeare, etc. Once I began teaching, I had little time to actually be in plays, though I was in some (maybe five?) university productions over the years. I like to think of myself as having trained discerning audiences for theatre.”
For Cooke, the process of “bringing what’s on the page to life” brings her the most enjoyment.
“I used to sing in choirs, and it’s the same dynamic of watching and feeling something beautiful emerge and grow from a template,” she said.
“Unlike film, the audience in live theatre is also part of that process; their response and interaction results in a great feeling (if all goes well, of course) of shared intimacy and enjoyment.”
While playing a deceased character may seem like a challenge, Cooke says that’s hardly the case.
“The character of Vi is very much alive in her daughter’s memory and dreams, so when I am present for her (and the audience), I don’t have to take my recent demise into account,” she said.
“I quip that it’s a good opportunity for me to practice haunting my children from beyond the grave. Other than that, it’s the lighting in the theatre that does all the work.”
The director of the production, Shane Rochon, first saw the play in French while living in Montreal, and was in awe of the complexities of the relationships of the characters.
“There is also the recurring theme of memory, whether true or false, that resonate deeply with most people,” he said in a press release.
“And the fear of losing one’s self. These are why these characters seemed appealing, flaws and all. Strong and yet so vulnerable. There is pain but there is also healing. And it is progressive.”
THE MEMORY OF WATER
■ WHERE: Langley Playhouse, 4307 200 St.
■ WHEN: Oct. 19 to Nov. 18, 8 p.m. on Thursday,Friday and Saturday with Sunday matinées at 2 p.m.
■ TICKETS: $15
■ PURCHASE: Reservations can be made online at www.langleyplayers.com
Tickets can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/producer/133005
Patrons may also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-534-7469