Amy Lee Lavoie navigates emotional territory in this small town dramedy

Presented by Factory Theatre
Written by Amy Lee Lavoie
Directed by Ron Jenkins

Amitai Marmorstein in Amy Lee Lavoie's Stopheart at Factory Theatre, May 4 – 26, 2013. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh.

In the small Timmins suburb of South Porcupine, a young man in a supermarket apron shares his boredom and confusion with the audience while Shania Twain's “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” plays in the background. This is the opening scene of Amy Lee Lavoie's Stopheart, a rollercoaster ride of emotion and complex characters, now playing at Factory Theatre.

Elian Fink (Amitai Marmostein) cannot hide the fact that he is struggling. After a shift at the supermarket where he makes announcements into a microphone and stamps price tags on cans of peaches, he goes home where he is greeted by a casket decorated in yellow ruffles and painted-on hearts. His mother, Goldie (Elizabeth Saunders), has a hole in her heart and has turned her inevitable funeral into a spectacle resembling a Hollywood movie, complete with the score from Gone With the Wind. Her husband, Cricket (Martin Julien), emulating his hero John Wayne in a cowboy hat and boots, has added Christmas lights and neon “Love” signs to the inside of the casket's lid. Much of Stopheart takes palce around this casket, with Goldie inside it practicing her funeral and comforting Elian and Cricket.

Meanwhile, Elian's complicated relationship with his awkward best friend July (Vivien Endicott-Douglas) is explored, specifically the fact that July has feelings for Elian that are not reciprocated. Elian is more interested in July's troubled brother, Bear (Garret C. Smith), and several scenes find Elian on the ground staring up longingly at Bear on his balcony, while July warns Elian repeatedly to stay away.

Although the underlying tragedy of Stopheart tugs at our heartstrings, the performances are over-the-top in their delivery, and the characters come across as unrelatable cariacatures. The most touching, enjoyable scenes are those that take place between Goldie and Cricket, as they are a poor family but are so in love with one another that their circumstances seem to fade away.

Unfortunately, the climactic scenes of the production are weighed down by loud emotional outbursts that do not flow with the overall pace, making the audience feel uncomfortable and disconnected. The play ends with a surprising plot twist, but it does not elicit the intended reaction from the audience, since by that point we cannot understand the world that Lavoie Lee has created, despite her obvious passion.

Stopheart runs until May 26 at Factory Theatre. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Sat, 2013-05-04 - Sun, 2013-05-26
Our rating:


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