Connection is Powerful: Review of The Stars Are Always Brighter When the Lights Go Out

As I walked into the Barbara Barrett Theatre on Sunday evening, I was welcomed by an almost full house of theatre-goers ready to see this show, and I don’t think any of us were ready to feel so many things in just an hour and a half. Best Kind Productions always has a way of making you feel a little extra something in your heart when you leave the theatre, and this show was no different. Buckle up, because I have a lot to say.

The Stars Are Always Brighter When The Lights Go Out is an original show, written by Timothy Matson, which explores our connection to people and our connection to the world. The show follows five characters, who are all going through their own emotional battles, and trying to overcome certain obstacles within their day to day lives; from illness to just getting the courage to ask someone out. The audience is led through the life of a young family, Diana, Todd, and daughter Laila, their neighbour Gregory, and his high school crush Grace as they figure out their own connections and meanings.

 Caitlin Harte (Grace) and Fionn Shea (Gregory) courtest of Sean Jessome Photography.

Caitlin Harte (Grace) and Fionn Shea (Gregory) courtest of Sean Jessome Photography.

The first note I want to make is about the writing. It was done in such a simple, and elegant way, which really allowed the audience to become committed and attached to the story. The dialogue was so natural that I often found myself forgetting I was even watching actors. The jokes were simple, yet landed so well, because of the focus the audience had. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the Diana and Todd storyline moves backward, revealing their past life bit by bit. It was the most intriguing thing and definitely kept me wanting to know more the entire time. Something else I thoroughly enjoyed in the writing was the Newfoundland connection. I think setting this piece in Newfoundland also helped create a stronger bond with the audience, because we could actually visualize the stars, and imagine far past the stage, and into the real world, which again, makes our connection with the piece a lot stronger.

 Owen Van Houten (Todd) and Kathryn Burke (Diana) courtesy of Sean Jessome Photography.

Owen Van Houten (Todd) and Kathryn Burke (Diana) courtesy of Sean Jessome Photography.

Next up is the technical aspect of the show. The lighting and the set worked together like a well-oiled machine. The stage was set up with five main playing areas, each with its own light source, i.e. a floor lamp, or a goal light from a hockey arena. These lights would blink in pattern for scene changes, led by stage manager Aloysius Ducey, along with the actors coming out and rearranging the furniture in real life, but choreographed in a fluid organized movement. By bringing those aspects together harmoniously, it allowed the audience to never feel like they were witnessing a set change. This really kept the audience intrigued. Personally, I am of the opinion that set changes have to happen, so why cover it up with a black stage, when you can strengthen the overall image of the show with changes like this.

This review would not be complete without mentioning the brilliance of Sharon King-Campbell. As a director, Sharon knows the in’s and out’s of every script, and knows exactly how to craft, mold, and build to create this beautiful story in such a natural way. Sharon’s directing in this show definitely shows in the work onstage, as every piece of this puzzle fits together perfectly. No stone was left unturned. Every aspect was covered, including the cast. The stacked cast of Kathryn Burke (Diana), Owen Van Houten (Todd), Fionn Shea (Gregory), Caitlin Harte (Grace), and Katie Russell (Laila), knew who they were, and knew how to portray their characters with ease. The acting, as a whole, was illuminating, and as a group, these actors blended seamlessly. A special shout out to Fionn Shea as Gregory, who had the audience right in the palm of his hands the entire show, making me sometimes feel like I was along for the ride with him. He knew how to play the crowd, gauge reaction, and never skipped a beat.

 Katie Russell (Laila) and Fionn Shea (Gregory) courtesy of Sean Jessome Photography.

Katie Russell (Laila) and Fionn Shea (Gregory) courtesy of Sean Jessome Photography.

After I left the theatre, I felt something. Even right now, I am not completely sure what that something was. This show does what good theatre is supposed to do; make you think, leave long lasting opinions, and ideas with you long after the show has ended. This show made me realize that we all have connections, and we all live in a world that is going so fast, we never really have time to slow down and look at the stars, and see what our life is really like. Sometimes we need to slow down and enjoy the people in our lives, and everything this world has to offer. As Kathryn (Diana) says perfectly, “if you say yes, you won’t miss out on something amazing”. If you missed this show, you definitely missed something amazing.