Review by: Anne Bokma
What happens to a loving family when one of its members is affected by mental illness? That’s the premise of A Little Too Close to Home, an honest portrayal of how family dynamics can shift and change forever in the face of a disorder such as OCD.
The gifted actors in this show bring so much accuracy and authenticity to their roles that you feel for each one of them. It’s impossible to take sides. Jordan Laffrenier lends just the right amount of frenetic angst to the role of Robert, the artist husband and father whose OCD begins to spin out of control after one of his paintings is rejected. Lucy Powis is terrific as Nicole, the wife and mother who is powerless to stop her partner’s obsessions. As she paces the stage, her pent up energy is evidence of her struggle between barely masked annoyance and compassion for the man she loves. Jacob (Luke Reece) is their tennis playing son who loves both his parents and experiences anxiety of his own in the face of his father’s issues.
Produced by Toronto’s Little Black Afro Theatre Company and written with insight and compassion by the three main actors in the play, this is a searing bit of family drama produced in a documentary-style format, with a therapist character (Kano Wilkinson) sitting at the corner of the stage, asking questions, making observations and eventually providing treatment.
We first meet Robert and Nicole in a flashback to when they fell in love and are lit up with the newfound bliss of flying sparks. Early on there is evidence of Robert’s anxiety—when Nicole offers him a sip of her tea, he raises the cup to his lips, shaking, fearful of her germs. It doesn’t matter to Nicole that Robert has OCD; she’s in love. But years later, now with a teenage son and Robert’s illness in full flower, the bloom begins to fade and Nicole is living with a man crippled by his fears and obsessions. Washing his hands repeatedly at the sink, she begs him to stop. But he simply can’t. Nor can he work, or attend his son’s tennis games, or be the husband she needs.
It’s a testament to the skill of the three actors who play the characters in this loving but fractured unit that they are able to make us care so very much about what will happen to this family.