She sat in the front row, chatting quietly before the show began. She has been here, many times before – back in 1995, again in 2007, and she is here today, on December 7, 2017. Berni Stapleton’s “Offensive to Some” still has the same subject matter, the same theme, and the same message, and the playwright herself was in attendance on opening night, to witness first-hand that her material — almost as old as the journalist reviewing it — has withstood the test of time.
An exploration of domestic abuse and social commentary on violence against women, “Offensive to Some” has been relevant for more than two decades, as statistics regarding domestic violence and spousal abuse in this province have hardly changed since the mid ’90s.
There are no statistics in “Offensive to Some.” Numbers and statistics don’t hold the same impact as a raw, emotional outpouring, based on an all-too-real and far-too-grim reality.
Our protagonist (Miranda MacDonald) tells her brutal, heart-wrenching and frighteningly realistic story, aided by regionally appropriate humour, musical interludes, clever use of props, and a slew of imaginary celebrity talk show hosts, such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, Rachel Ray, Whoopi Goldberg and Anderson Cooper.
The list of celebrity hosts marks the only changes made in director Ruth Lawrence’s interpretation of “Offensive to Some.” This splash of modern pop culture replaces outdated references of talk show hosts of the past. Unfortunately, the rest of the script still applies today — every little dark, disturbing, disheartening detail.
We meet our unnamed lead as she dances her way onstage, exploding onto the set in a frenzied fury. The lights illuminate, showing an interrogation room, and our star, speckled in blood.
She truly is a star in this show, efficiently and effortlessly communicating various emotions, all delivered, unhinged, with perfect hint of chaos. This particular delivery makes sense, as we learn that she is still processing the past and events that brought her to this interrogation room – the murder of her husband, by her hand.
Speaking to an empty chair, she explains how her hopes and dreams have been slowly crushed, by her abusive husband, annoying children, and bizarre upbringing. These are among a myriad of factors that led to her new role, not as a “guest star” on a talk show, but as an unforgiving, unhinged murderess.
She recounts the abuse she has endured throughout the years, describing the repeated violence, as she pokes and prods her body, detailing where he hurt her.
He gives her another bruise, and she gives him another “last chance,” not realizing that every “last chance” takes away her chance to get away, to escape. As she sits there, covered in her dead husband’s blood, she asks God, “Why do I still love him?”
It’s depressing, it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, and most of all, it’s REAL.
22 years after its debut, this story, seen in this incarnation at The Gathering Place, remains a harsh dose of a still-current reality. We can only hope that “Offensive to Some” will become outdated and irrelevant, sooner rather than later. It plays Friday and Saturday.