Pathos, the “unshakable monster that is guilt,” and the things we’re not supposed to talk about are coming to the stage this October for four darkly funny nights with One Yellow Rabbit.
Guilt is Canadian comedy legend Diane Flacks’ one-woman show about a self-sacrificing Jewish mother experiencing a midlife crisis, who blows up her own marriage.
It marks the return of Flacks to the stage in a one-woman performance for the first time in 10 years, and was originally scheduled to play during the High Performance Rodeo.
“When you when you see things about divorce in the media, it’s usually like you have the other woman—you have the woman who’s been wronged, or you have the really cold woman makes drastic choices and leaves,” said Flacks.
“But you don’t have a real story about how it affects a human being to make a choice that can be hurtful to others, how it affects children, how it affects their life and where it comes from, and so I became really fascinated with the state of being that is guilt.”
She described the play like a a balloon being leaked slowly out, with the audience getting to laugh, and be surprised as it deflates.
“There’s something that an audience craves in that,” Flacks said.
Flacks is a veteran of some of Canada’s biggest comedy sketch programs including the Baroness von Sketch Show and Kids in the Hall. That, alongside working on sitcoms like Workin’ Moms, Young Drunk Punk, and Working the Engels.
Guilt will be her third performance with One Yellow Rabbit.
“Diane has been to the rodeo before, our audiences know her, and they also know her work from pop culture and television,” said Oliver Armstrong, One Yellow Rabbit producer.
“There’s no question that that our our patron base is going to show up and is going to be excited for this.”
Guilt is playing for four nights only, from Oct. 5 to 8, at the Big Secret Theatre at Arts Commons.
Guilt as a default emotion, and finding meaning from it
She dryly pointed out before laughing that guilt is her default emotion as a Jewish woman.
“Like when you don’t know what you should feel you should feel guilty, so this is what I was brought up with, and it’s deeply ingrained. It’s like my morality,” Flacks said.
“And because I felt that so profoundly, I thought, there’s a good chance that I could write a play about this, because I had a very extreme response that could speak to all sorts of people on all sorts of different continuum of feelings of regret.”
She said that the way she has gotten through extreme situations is through humour, and that is also reflected in Guilt.
“I think there’s a lot that is funny about it. There’s a lot that’s ridiculous that happened, and some of the extreme of how a person tries to pretend nothing’s wrong when something is clearly wrong, is funny to me,” Flacks said.
“I’ve always felt this way, as an artist, I can find something funny in a really terrible situation that makes people laugh, so that (a), they look at the terrible situation that they were afraid to look at, and (b), they see that as human beings we can get through it.”
Flacks said that nobody wants to see bullshit when there is an opportunity to experience something authentic.
“Amazon Prime has a series called divorce, with the beautiful Sarah Jessica Parker, who I adore, but to me skipped over everything that’s really problematic and difficult and complicated in divorce and in breakups,” she said.
“I feel like why? Why not actually talk about it, find ways to be human about it, so that people don’t feel so alone?”
High quality performance highlight for October
Armstrong described Guilt as a high quality performance that meets the theatre company’s mandate for the experimental, aesthetic, and virtuosic.
Guilt will be playing during a second year of fall performances for OYR, before the main presentations in January for the High Performance Rodeo.
“What’s nice for our audiences is it’s a simple way for them to come back to the Big Secret Theatre, see that super high quality work that is rodeo adjacent, to remind them to stick around by their flex pass and come back for the winter, to see three solid weeks of that same calibre of work,” he said.
Armstrong said that Flacks getting back on stage again after 10 years for a one-woman show was literally what the company lives for.
“Our experience is inherently live,” he said.
Armstrong said that audiences have begun to gravitate back to the theatre, and that lets OYR put on shows that just simply wouldn’t be possible through any other medium. He said that the emotions really came flooding back after they had to reschedule some of their shows into a spring series due to the pandemic.
“It was some of those feelings I had forgotten how they felt—introducing an artist in front of an audience, talking to that audience after the show, and you know, at a reception with a drink in your hand or whatever those experiences were,” he said.
“The emotions hit harder than I thought they would, and so that’s just another kind of reminder that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re on the right path, and live audiences are what we seek and what we love.”
Armstrong said that for individuals on the fence for getting back into the theatre, or are still being highly selective about what they see, OYR is looking to give people guaranteed experiences to get them back into seats
“High quality art—we’re looking to show guaranteed high performance and high quality work to our audience, and that’s what we’re banking on.”
He suggested that because Guilt is only on for four nights, people purchase tickets early.
And as a bonus, Flacks said she would be modifying the show from feedback throughout the run, which includes audience after-show talks.
“I can’t wait for her as the extremely thoughtful and well spoken artist she is, to give that value added experience and for us to learn from her,” said Armstrong.
For more details on the show, and to purchase tickets, see www.oyr.org/guilt.