New play entertains audiences from all walks of life

Very Montreal, Anglo Montreal to be specific, Dating Jesus is a marvellous new play by Louise Arsenault, multi-dimensional and rich in content and character. Renee (Laura Mitchell) is the hot Mama single mother of two teenagers struggling with the heart-wrenching choices between her responsibilities, familial and fiscal, and her own passions, creative and carnal. We learn through laughter, and this play gives us a humorous insight into life in a bipolar world without trivializing the attendant agonies. Funny, yes; light-hearted, no. Mitchell is frighteningly convincing in her manic role and her energy and euphoria are magnetic, both for the audience and the other cast members. Renees sister Sylvie is played by Debra Kirshenbaum, and she captures the exasperation and bewilderment that form the inevitable emotional palette of anyone in her situation. Janis Kirshner is the friend and upstairs neighbour Ocean. Kirshner and Mitchell already have an acclaimed history as the comedy duo TITTERS, and they work really well together here too. Kirshners strengths as an actor include an expressive face, excellent intuitive comic timing and dulcet but powerful speaking voice. Taylor Baruchel completes the cast beautifully as Renees teenage daughter, irrepressible in her youthful exuberance and worried to distraction by her crazy mother. Dating Jesus is presented by Unwashed Grape, a theatre company founded in 2004 by Paul Hawkins and Laura Mitchell, both teachers at Montreals Dawson College. Hawkins himself directs this production which fits well with the companys professed mission to produce entertainment that speaks to the perplexities and passions of the human heart. The passions and perplexities component here transcend time and space, but Dating Jesus plays it all out in the here and now of Montreal, with the well-heeled Upper Westmount Sylvie and the unique French/English Catholic/Protestant bipolar milieu. Excellent direction and strong cast to be sure, but in this case the plays most certainly the thing, and quite a thing it is too. This one will take its place in the rich canon of Montreal dramatic work. Congratulations and thank you, Louise Arsenault, and keep it coming!! Dating Jesus is playing at Theatre Ste. Catherine, 264 Ste. Catherine St. East in Montreal (Metro Berri-UQAM), until November 18. Evening shows begin at 8 p.m., and matinees start at 2 p.m. during the weekend. This is not the most comfortable venue, cushions are recommended. For reservations call 514-284-3939 or e-mail at reservations@theatrestecatherine.com .

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