Written by Jill Daum. Directed by Michael Shamata. An Arts Club Theatre Company and Belfry Theatre coproduction. At the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre on Wednesday, March 7. Continues until March 25
“I’m scared about the future.”
“That’s because you have one.”
This brief exchange comes near the end of Jill Daum’s new play, Forget About Tomorrow. Jane (Jennifer Lines) is trying to cope with the fact that her 50-year-old husband, Tom (Craig Erickson), has recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, but she’s a tangle of anger, grief, and guilt. His response is its own complicated combination of envy, frustration, and sympathy. There’s a scarcity of money, time, and hope, and they’re both in survival mode, but for once in the couple’s 27 years together, they’re not looking at the same future. He will die and she will not, and neither of them knows what to do.
Daum began writing the play in the aftermath of the diagnosis of her own husband, musician and actor John Mann, with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Forget About Tomorrow is not autobiographical, but Jane and Tom/Jill and John—these characters are vivid and tangible because they take their shape from Daum’s lived experiences, even though the story itself is fiction. There’s tremendous joy on the page, even in the heaviest moments, and Daum has a gift for deliciously wicked quips, which helps make Forget About Tomorrow an exquisite balancing act of comedy and tragedy, reality and fiction.
The play opens with the projection of a “homemade movie” of Tom serenading Jane on their anniversary. It’s a beautiful song—written by Mann—and it establishes the couple’s closeness and love for each other. It’s also helpful to have something with which to contrast how their relationship is challenged postdiagnosis. Tom is a therapist and he’s been forgetting things, complaining of a fog in his head that he can’t shake. Jane thinks it’s anxiety and other mental-health issues, and is increasingly frustrated as the financial and domestic duties of their shared life fall solely onto her. Jane’s trying to parent their two kids long-distance via video-calling for the most part, while also dealing with her boss and friend, the hilariously narcissistic Lori (Colleen Wheeler), and a new customer, Wayne (Hrothgar Mathews), who takes a shine to Jane just when she’s looking for an escape.
The cast is fantastic, particularly the main four. Lines and Erickson masterfully negotiate the emotional agility of Daum’s writing, moving from wry and tender to bittersweet and furious, sometimes within the space of a single sentence. Wheeler gets all of the best lines and the biggest laughs, and her Lori is the perfect warped looking glass through which Jane can examine how the other half lives. Mathews’s performance, particularly in Act 1, is a stealth combination of charming and sexy. All of them navigate the nuanced depths of Daum’s words with the perfect combination of fearlessness and warmth, making Forget About Tomorrow an experience that you’ll want to remember.