An upcoming play by the Driftwood Players will blend suspense and sentimentality while exploring universal themes of family and the frailty of memory.
Timepiece is a two-act drama by Vancouver-based playwright Kico Gonzales-Risso, whose works have been staged across Canada, in Australia, and in cities throughout the United States. Gonzales-Risso is also a translator and director — his English version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was broadcast on CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.
Co-directed by Mac Dodge and Anthony Paré, Timepiece is a slow-burning tale of aging parents and their adult children who collectively cherish and pine for independence. Retired clock-mender and inveterate tinkerer Walter resists his wife Dora’s arguments that it’s time to downsize their home and simplify their lifestyle. As their children anticipate the loss of family touchstones, Walter’s intransigence makes him launch a scheme with potentially explosive consequences.
“This is something that every family goes through,” said Larry Musser, who plays Walter. Musser appeared most recently in Driftwood’s spring 2022 production of The Dining Room. “We can all find something here that we’ve experienced in our own family. Mental health of aging people — and how we treat our aging people — is a big issue.”
Monica Davis, who plays careworn matriarch Doris, said that Gonzales-Risso’s storyline walks a fine line between the tragedy of forgetfulness and the necessary creativity of people experiencing cognitive decline. “[Walter] is the craftiest of the people losing his mind that I’ve come across,” Davis said. “He’s forgetting things constantly, but he’s also very sharp in other aspects. When dealing with him, as Doris, you could just dismiss him out of hand, but you have to remember his dignity.”
For Dining Room veteran Melinda Oliver, who plays 30-something Karla, family dynamics become complicated when children cling to timeworn perceptions about their roles. “It’s only when the mother reaches her last straw that the kids finally go: oh, maybe we should be doing something about this,” Oliver said. “But the kids are also in denial that their dad is losing his mind.”
Driftwood newcomer Ross McKeachie inhabits the role of Patrick, a middle-aged lawyer seeking to manage challenges in his offstage family while addressing longstanding tensions between his sister and parents. “In life, there are all these old issues that you maybe haven’t addressed and the opportunity to actually engage and resolve them is slipping away,” he observed. “[This play] illuminates that it’s helpful for people to have these conversations with our parents and families before it gets to that point.”
For a comic talent like Musser, depicting Walter’s machinations while beset by waning powers of perception is an intricate challenge. “I’ve got to find that centre,” said Musser, “even when he [Walter] is being flippant or being mad or can’t remember what his daughter said to him two sentences ago.”
Co-director Mac Dodge, himself a Driftwood Plays fixture, observed that every audience member will resonate with the themes of Timepiece. “It’s live theatre for people struggling with something we all struggle with,” he said. “Yet the subject matter is still entertaining, with a wonderful tension that keeps us on the edge of our seat right until the end.”
Timepiece runs for eight performances at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse starting Oct. 13. Details and ticket sales are available online at driftwoodplayers.ca; tickets can be also be purchased at Gibsons Florist, Strait Music (Sechelt) and MELOmania (Roberts Creek).