Arts Club’s Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily shines
by Bob Pember
The Arts Club’s Stanley theatre has started the new year off with the premiere of Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily written by Canadian playwright and author Joanna McClelland Glass. Starring theatre veterans Nicola Cavendish and Fiona Reid, the play focuses on the binary lives of two women in their mid sixties taking different approaches to their problems with growing old and settling down. With expertly-delivered astute monologues, the play is remarkably accessible to people in all stages of life.
While the play stars both Cavendish and Reid, the two are never on stage together. Act One has Cavendish giving her portrayal of Peggy, the daily housekeeper to Mrs. Dexter, a once wealthy woman who has now forced to sell her house after her husband left her for her best friend and confidant. Peggy grew up in a poor part of town in Newfoundland, and relays the bumps in her life—having four children (three of which survived infancy) with an unfaithful man who left once the children were born. Cavendish crafts this simple woman with ease on stage and keeps the audience engaged and laughing while going about her daily chores in the kitchen set.
Fiona Reid’s character reads a little more complex than her busybody counterpart from the first act. When the audience first sees Mrs. Dexter, she has already sent Peggy home early out of minor frustrations and has decided that three o’clock in the afternoon is good enough time to start on the rye and ginger. Having been humiliated in the neighbourhood by her philandering husband, Mrs. Dexter has confined herself to night robes and alcohol while she waits for “the madding crowd” to come and buy her house. Though her story is tragic and her future seems bleak, she still manages to put the audience in hysterics at times—she continues calling her old friend ‘the rodent’ while mixing her drinks about four parts rye to one splash of ginger ale and swearing at her lazy children over the phone. While Cavendish was superb, Reid shone in her character and found a way to make an ex-upper class senior woman funny, captivating and emotionally moving.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily to anyone wanting a unique and rewarding theatre experience. Not only do the actors deliver professional and sensitive performances, but the format of the two extended monologues creates a fresh feel in the theatre and is executed well through the accomplished script.
Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily runs until February 7th at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre.