15 November 2018
I am an elementary school teacher. I have participated in hundreds of parent-teacher interviews, but I’ve never had an experience like the one portrayed in Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets! Oh sure, when I walked into the Small World Centre at Artscape Youngplace, I was transported into what could have been any elementary classroom anywhere in this city or province. I admired the set designer’s attention to detail – the name tags on the desks and the artwork hanging all looked like a grade 3 student’s work. I could relate to Teresa, played by Rafaela Lewis, as she puttered around the room straightening the chairs and updating the blackboard for the coming day.
Enter Marion. Portrayed by Jorie Morrow, Marion is the mother that every teacher wants to avoid. She’s condescending, treating Teresa like a child, dismissing the teacher’s expertise in her profession. She’s domineering, insisting that marks are more important than her son’s progress and university should be a priority… in grade 3! Worst of all, she shows up without an appointment, delaying Teresa’s exit after a long day of work and interviews. It’s easy to hate Marion. She’s the antagonist in this story, or is she?
As truths unfold, I can see the place of pain where Marion is coming from. Morrow depicts a woman struggling to manage her career, and do what she feels is best for her family. She spends evenings on conference calls and weekends at the office, all in the name providing for her family. Her husband, Curtis, is “never satisfied” and her son, Alex, has apparent learning and behavioural issues at home and at school. Her relationship with him is “wonderful, complicated, horrific.”
These two women take the audience on a roller coaster of emotions as they process their complicated relationship. As the story develops, there are tender moments where the two women connect over their pain and loss, voices are lowered, tears are shed.
Between the Sheets tells a story that is not new, yet it doesn’t seem repetitive. The excellent dialogue and acting are engaging, emotional. The tension that it created was not shed quickly. Like so many issues in life, there was no true resolution to Teresa and Marion’s conflict. They are left picking up the pieces of their ruined lives. The audience is left asking ‘Where will they go from here?’.