Review: The Amaryllis Is a Bittersweet Bloom

This whole pandemic sitch has really messed up my favourite things about my job: seeing my coworkers, attending cool events, and going to the theatre. (Luckily for me, it hasn’t impacted my new favourite thing about my job: having it).  All of those things can be done virtually, and I’ve gone to my share of online events—but we all know it just isn’t the same. Especially theatre.

So although it felt very weird to be in the Firehall last Friday night (distanced seating and masks on, of course), it was also very exciting. Artistic Director Donna Spencer gave the audience the rundown of the one-way traffic flow to the bathroom and exit plan (“Remember when we used to just tell you to turn your cell phones off?” she laughed). I did turn my phone off, and realized that I don’t think I’ve actually done that since the last play I attended in February.

 And for an hour and a half, I permitted myself to forget about the pandemic entirely. Michele Riml and The Search Party‘s The Amaryllis is a two-person play following a brother and sister; Lucy (Amy Rutherford) is a voice actor and Jeremy (Shawn Macdonald) is her agent. It’s directed by Mindy Parfitt. Through a mix of scenes and short monologues from Jeremy, we learn about their complex, codependent relationship, and difficult choices they both must make to grow. If you know that an amaryllis is a winter flower (which we all do, obviously) you’d assume the show to be heavy in metaphor. You’d be right. From literally sweeping things under the rug to baking cookies to propagating plants, everything means more than it is. 

Like most two-handers, the show moves with a steady rhythm. There’s a few laughs (Rutherford’s voices are chaotic and fun, Macdonald’s monologues are ridiculously relatable, and there’s lots of reference to Jesus Christ Superstar) but overall, the mood is quite somber—these are troubled characters who seem to lose almost as much as they gain from living together. It’s not a silly, feel-good romp, that’s for sure, but it’s also not the kind of show you forget about. There are plenty of moments to think about and reflect on and bicker with your partner about on the way home (or maybe that’s just me). For me, the show was a reminder of the power of theatre to transport us into other worlds—happier or not—and I think that’s something we all need a little bit right now.

The Amaryllis is on at the Firehall until November 22—you can find tickets here.