Local play satirizes the political world as federal election approaches

Photo: Courtesy of Pascal Huot

There may be nothing better to get you in the mood for a federal election than a play about subversive, lying, cheating, backstabbing politicians, and the ruthless world they inhabit. Generous, is a play by Canadian playwright Michael Healey and was written over 10 years ago and is currently showing at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre.

The play opens with the ruling party on the verge of collapse as they face a vote of non-confidence they fear they will not survive, and the immoral lengths they go to in an attempt to keep their power.

The second scene gives us another taste of depravity, this time in the world of business, through a woman who, as CEO of a huge oil and gas company, wants to do as little as she can for the environment and cares only about her next extra-marital affair.

What happens when a politician orders a murder to slip by in a vote? Comedy! And if Healey was aiming for a comedy he certainly succeeded, with a cast of hilarious characters, rants against Canadian Tire, a quest to find Triscuits, a splendidly performed awkward post-sex scene, rants against twenty-somethings and excellent use of the word “fuckwit.”

Now that’s a good word. Especially when it’s coming from the Prime Minister.

And yet making the audience laugh is only a piece of what this play really is. It fits squarely in the realm of dramedy, with strong elements of heartbreak. It’s also a textbook example of what a satire should do—entertain, terrify, and deliver the harsh truths of life in a way that we can swallow.

Our heartstrings are tugged by the empathetic and sensitive Alex, by the hurt Lily, and her mother Maria, who uses a veneer of coldness and emotional detachment to hide great pain that she doesn’t understand.

Maria, played by Kristina Watt, a part-time professor in the University of Ottawa’s theatre department is the standout character, and acts as a foil to law clerk Alex. Jacki Brabazoan, the assistant stage manager, is also a U of O alumna, with a minor in theatre.

Put on by the Great Canadian Theatre Company under the direction of Eric Coates, a former actor who spent four seasons with the popular Stratford Festival, this show is a fine start to the 2015-2016 season, and particularly pertinent in Canada’s current political atmosphere.

While the play’s primary goal is to be a political satire, it also succeeds at examining the human condition. The audience is drawn in by the emotional moments in the play more than anything else. So if you’re already getting tired of the attack ads, false promises, or hearing about Justin Trudeau’s hair, take a break by getting in a quick laugh and maybe, for once, seeing a more human side of politics in Generous.

Generous runs Sept. 17–27 at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, 1233 Wellington Street. Tickets are available for purchase online and in person at the box office.