Doctor Freud & The Dish ThrowerWednesday, March 06, 2013
Tonight Rosemary and I attended the premiere and opening performance of Marcus Youssef’s How Has My Love Affected You? The play features Marcus Youssef and his son Zak. The play opened at the Art Club Theatre Company’s Review Stage on Granville Island.
My wife not having met Youssef (I photographed him some years ago), did not know what to expect. I told her, “Whatever it is it will be warm, heartfelt, funny, and in good taste. There will be no shocks.” I almost got it right. You see, after enjoying this one hour and twenty minute autobiographical play, I am not sure if Youssef is the kind of person who throws dishes in the kitchen in anger. I divide the world into those who do and those who don’t. I am in that first category and my wife can tell you how expensive a husband I have been. But that is another story.
Up until now I thought I was one of those few who know what Rachel Ditor (listed as director and dramaturg) does at the Arts Club Theatre Company.
She is the resident dramaturg (pronounced by Ditor to rhyme with burg). A dramaturg is the liaison between the playwright and a play’s director. As a go-between the dramaturg helps the director ready a play for the needs (and constraints) of a theatrical company and the vision of the director. The vision of the director does not always agree with that of the playwright. Think of the relationship between an author and an editor, with the dramaturg being a special super/literary/agent/facilitator.
With that said imagine what Ditor’s job is here. Youssef besides being a playwright he is also a considerably skilled director. Ditor as Dramaturg has to facilitate between… and by now you see what a convoluted mess this could be. Which it really isn’t, as Ditor and Youssef have managed quite well to mount a play that pleased not only this reviewer, but also this reviewer’s wife who usually does not like anything.
The play is all about Youssef’s relationship with his mother, a very unusual one with a penchant for writing everything down. That she ends up in a BC facility for the elderly suffering from dementia, is the tragic thread of the play. It is a funny play but Rosemary and I (she almost 70) and I, 70, also considered the tragedy of wondering if we will end our days vaporized in a Dreamliner or physically alive but with no memory to recognize our loved ones.
In How Has My Love Affected You? Youssef takes us through the relationship he had with his mother, ably helped by his talented son Zak, who on keyboard and with an unusual voice and diction, set some of his grandmother’s writings to song (music composed by Veda Hille).
Youssef, whose father was an Egyptian could easily be an Argentine. After all he still seems to consult his therapist Michael whom he affectionately (really? I am not sure) calls Doctor Freud. In my country of birth Freud and his disciple Jung are up there with the Trinity in importance.
As I attempt to box all the hundreds of photographs (in sizes ranging from snapshots, to 5x7s, 8x10s, 11x14s and 16x20s; as I attempt to file my thousands of negatives, as I contemplate my over 4000 books, as I look at my over 500 hostas in my garden and other detritus of my 70 year existence, the play has put me into a panic mode. Like Youssef’s grandfather I have become obsessed in making a will. Unlike that grandfather I don’t plan to threaten to cut off any of my family.
For one hour and twenty minutes we were entertained, beautifully and charmingly but as I write this I can only wonder if Youssef himself has boxes and boxes of stuff. I grieve for him. And as I thought of his hate/love relationship with his mother I wondered if he ever broke any dishes in the kitchen. Did she? I think so. There is only one person who would know for sure, besides Zak and his sister Cynthia. That would be Amanda, Youssef’s wife. I have the suspicion that she is a silent and suffering woman with lots of patience.
That charming and soft-spoken Youssef throws them. Does he store the pieces in boxes? I bet he does. Did he love his mother? He surely did.
Kudos to the dramaturg, director, go-between and perhaps just as patient as Amanda. Rachel Ditor.
Rachel Ditor Dramaturg
Others in red shawl series