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Nicola Cavendish as Peggy
Nicola Cavendish as Peggy

Theatre Review: "Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily" at the National Arts Centre

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Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily runs at the NAC in Ottawa through March 6. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has this review.

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Fiona Reid as Mrs. Dexter  Photos: David Cooper

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

The World Premiere of MRS. DEXTER AND HER DAILY by Joanna McClelland Glass is, like her hit play TRYING, based on real life.  The playwright has a wonderful knack of being able to explore the daily life of her characters.  To quote artistic Director Peter Hinton, ". . . she captures the extraordinary nature of ordinary life which gives it a remarkable sense of authenticity, truth and meaning."

We meet Mrs. Dexter and her housekeeper Peggy when they are about to part company following Mrs. Dexter's divorce.  Mrs. Dexter is moving to a small apartment and Peggy hopes to retire.

The play consists essentially of two monologues.  Act I belongs to Peggy and Act II to Mrs. Dexter, although the monologues are broken up by various phone calls and conversations with off-stage characters.  As each character communicates with the audience we learn about the circumstances of their very different lives.  It takes superb actresses to pull this off, and these two ladies have the right stuff.

Nicola Cavendish as Peggy has a smile that lights up the stage.  Her boundless energy is apparent as she bounces along with the electric can opener.  Thoughtful in her own entertaining way, she describes a man as "handsome enough to melt the lard off your bones," and addresses God as "Sir."

As Mrs. Dexter Fiona Reid paints an equally complex portrait of a woman who describes her days as "frayed around the edges."  Helping her to, as she says, "tread water," are frequent nips of Canadian Club.  Miss Reid does a wonderful job of gradually getting tipsy, culminating in a hilarious phone call to her son.

Pam Johnson's warm, lovely kitchen set and Marsha Sibthorpe's lighting are just fine, as are Phillip Clarkson's costumes - especially all Peggy's shoes.

Director Marti Maraden has done a splendid job of directing.  The play never becomes static, and there's great attention to detail.  I loved the touch of putting away a half-eaten sandwich in a baggie.  She's also made an excellent choice of simple piano music.  Most of all, she and her actors have created a world and characters that we believe in.

Playwright Glass not only entertains us, but the final line of each act gives us something to chew on.  I for one plan to try a little vinegar in my tuna salad sandwich.

On a scale of one to five, the NAC English Theatre/Arts Club Theatre Company of Vancouver co-production of MRS. DEXTER AND HER DAILY gets five Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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