Part of the Main, a theatre company devoted to bringing stories written by and about women to the stage, presents The Squirrel Plays – a piece of theatre which tackles women’s health and reproductive rights through the darkly comedic metaphor of a squirrel infestation.
The play centres around newlyweds Tom (Hugh Stubbins) and Sarah (Amy Reitsma), who are not “squirrel people.” Not that they judge those who are, of course. So, when they discover a pesky critter in their attic, they’re faced with a relationship-testing decision: to exterminate, or not to exterminate? As the drama proceeds we discover squirrels aren’t only invading Tom and Sarah’s home; they’ve infested the whole neighbourhood, leaving damage and hysteria in their wake. This time, the issue doesn’t only tear Sarah and Tom apart; it threatens the harmony of the whole community.
Playwright Mia McCullough uses humour and emotional truth to shed new light on topical matters. You may not envisage a play which addresses abortion, race, politics and class being amusing, but The Squirrel Plays is frequently hilarious. It’s also intelligent and thought-provoking. The audience are not patronised by the characters, and are allowed to draw their own conclusions about who is “right” and “wrong” as the drama unfolds.
Directed by Jessica Bickel-Barlow, the play makes inventive use of the small stage, with the audience seated on either side of the action. The five actors double as household items like the bedframe, dishwasher and dining room table, sometimes to comic effect. The cast are all superb, particularly Reitsma as Sarah, who shifts from absurdity to pathos with ease.
Despite the subject matter, The Squirrel Plays is not playing to a single gender, religious view or perspective. It’s a smart take on an emotive subject which is as timely now as ever, particularly given recent events in the US and Ireland (and even more recently in Argentina). It’s a show that deserves to be seen by large audience and will likely provoke wider conversations among those who love squirrels, those who can’t stand the critters and the ambivalent.