A woman stands in her living room folding laundry, while her daughter yells at her about being a bad parent. One might expect to observe this scene walking into any suburban home with a raging adolescent. This scene, though, is a scene from Lunchbox Theatre's Afterlife. Here's the twist: the daughter is dead and actually haunting her already dead mother. Now that sounds interesting.
Clem Martini's Afterlife is being celebrated as Lunchbox Theatre's 250 play and is also Martini's 13 one-act play produced by the theatre. His artistic approach to the play is outlined in the notes, "I have an admission. Afterlife isn't really about afterlife, it's about duringlife. Inthemiddleoflife. Whatever."
Suzanne McDowell plays Crystal Hood, the angry haunting daughter. Trained at the University of Alberta, she has since done shows all over Canada. This is her first production with Lunchbox, although she has worked on other plays. "The plays themselves [at Lunchbox] are so much fun and they're fast, they're full of life. You know, there's a quick message. [Afterlife is about] a woman who has passed away and hadn't lead the most exemplary life. So she's trying to turn her afterlife around. But she's got a bitter and wounded daughter who seeks her mother out after she passes away, you know, to get redemption--to make her apologize make her see the errors of her ways.
"There's a third character that comes in and begins haunting me so there's one haunting and then there's another haunting. In the end we all come to terms with realizing that it's just a big waste of time, haunting is a big waste of time when there's something good that can be done," she explains.
The story has a dark side dealing with the issue of death, coined as a dark comedy. As McDowell explains, "I think a pure comedy might not necessarily appeal to everybody, but we all have depth, and we all have sadness and sorrow and we all need to be able to laugh at that. I think the realism of the dark comedy is what makes it so funny."
The storyline is obviously about afterlife, but as mentioned earlier, Martini believes this play is very applicable to anybody's life. McDowell agrees, "I've had my own experiences recently with death and passing away. For me it's comforting to know that we as energy, as pure energy, are constantly evolving. We are never going to be stagnant in this world or in the next world, we'll always constantly evolve and grow."
For McDowell, haunting symbolizes the angry energy those haunting carry.
Martini finishes his notes eloquently, explaining the letting go process, "But journeying there [the future] is similar to flying with Air Canada--you are allowed a limited number of carry-ons. So you'll have to leave some of your heaviest bags behind."