Arts & Culture

Infinity packs an emotional punch at the Cultch

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:31 PST, Thu January 9, 2020

Last Updated: 3:53 PST, Wed January 22, 2020

With Gateway and Metro theatres dark this week, the Cultch is across the Knight Street Bridge for some thought-provoking—and tender—theatre. 

Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s award-winning play Infinity has its Vancouver debut this week in the venue’s Historic Theatre, directed by Ross Manson.

The lights come up on superb violinist Andréa Tyniec, solo and barefoot in a white dress, playing a haunting tune. 

For the rest of the show, Tyniec appears behind the black and white screen that serves as the set’s backdrop. She’s backlit, sprinkling composer and music director Njo Kong Kie’s violin interludes throughout the story.

Initially, the play has two apparently parallel plotlines. Emily Jane King plays Sarah Jean, a young woman who has a self-confessed problem with love. 

Interspersed between early scenes where King explains her unsuccessful romances, we watch musician Carmen (Amy Rutherford) and physicist Elliot (Jonathon Young) fall into a relationship accelerated by an unplanned pregnancy.

Young’s character is working on his PhD—a theory on the reality of time—when we meet him. His theoretical musings are compelling and Young lends a realistic eagerness to the character. 

An interesting contemporary dance interlude provides a great opportunity for a violin solo. Unfortunately, I don’t think its abstractness fits into the structure of the rest of the plot; it would have been good to add a few more similar interludes for continuity or highlight the brilliant Tyniec in another way.

Based on the play’s description, I wasn’t expecting there to be so many early laughs. Moscovitch writes believable characters who speak to each other like real people. In particular, Rutherford shines when she strives—at times tearfully—for a closer relationship with Young.

The true connection between the three characters becomes apparent about halfway through the show. King is Rutherford and Young’s daughter; their marriage is distant and sometimes volatile.

All three actors give incredible performances. The family scenes where all three are together are strong, and King seamlessly switches between playing adult and eight-year-old Sarah Jean.

The last scene packs an emotional punch as we, along with grown-up Sarah Jean, watch Carmen and Elliot meet again. The play breaks down the construct of time as we know it, with Sarah Jean seeming to finally complete her father’s theory.

While time is clearly the focus of the play, the moral only begins to emerge at the end. The final scenes are swift and a little fragmented; I would have appreciated a little more closure through music or an extended scene.

Despite some too-quick late transitions, the emotions of the play are powerful. Several unexpected twists, held together by Moscovitch’s poignant dialogue, made me tear up. The emotions of the play resonated with me long after I’d left the theatre.

Along with three strong performances, all the technical aspects of Infinity were smooth. If there were any hiccups, I didn’t notice them. Instead, I was mesmerized by the journey unfolding in front of me.

If you like well-written, emotional Canadian theatre, Infinity is on through Jan. 19 at the Cultch (1895 Venables St.). To buy tickets, call 604-251-1363 or visit tickets.thecultch.com


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