Mark O’Rowe’s award-winning play now on at Centaur Theatre  

by Peter Kerr

After reading a succession of formulaic who-done-it mysteries; it’s gratifying to read a well-crafted novel that challenges one’s intellect. A literary work that takes the reader on an adventure of the mind. In a similar vein, Terminus is a play that comes off the stage in waves, providing an intellectual and emotional challenge to the audience. This play provokes discussion hours and even days afterward. As an intellectual stimulus – Terminus delivers the goods.

The Centaur production of Terminus comes with an excellent pedigree; beginning with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival First Award in 2008 and more recently the Toronto Theatre Critics Award in 2013. Mirvish Outside the March Awards include; Best International Play, Best Production of a Play, Best Director of a Play and Best Design of a Play. The Mirvish production at their Royal Alexandra Theatre earned high praise from The Globe & Mail and Toronto Star. That same production is currently on stage at Centaur.

When we first arrived, music with an incessant beat was playing in the background, and I thought that a band was rehearsing in a nearby studio. Taking our seats and looking at the dramatic techno set, I realized that the music – now gradually gaining volume – was a prelude to the performance. In hindsight, the music has a similar foreboding quality similar to the movie Jaws. As the last members of the audience take their seats, Sarah Dodd as “A” – on stage as the audience arrives – addresses the audience, and we begin our journey into a fantastical Dublin night of demons, angels and tormented souls.

“A” is a volunteer at a crisis call centre, and she takes a call from a woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy. A retired teacher – she recognizes the voice of a former pupil, and sets out to find and help the young woman from her past. With this quest, the audience begins a graphic-novel inspired journey through three apparently unrelated characters. Without being a spoiler, the progression of the play brings the three together in a series of actions and seemingly unrelated events.

Terminus - Ava Jane Markus Credit: ®Sarah Miller-Garvin

Ava Jane Markus
Credit: ®Sarah Miller-Garvin

As Dodd leaves the stage after a non-stop dialogue; Ava Jane Markus as “B” takes the stage and continues with a similar break-neck dialogue. In the role of “C”; Adam Kenneth Wilson at first appears to be a nerdy young man, ever hopeful of meeting and finding sexual gratification with a woman. His dark side is soon revealed.

Dodd, Markus and Wilson each deliver riveting performances, not the least of which includes their ability to speak non-stop with barely a pause for breath. Delivery like this requires the actors to immerse themselves in the dialogue, so that it’s part of them. There’s no time to think – they only have to be in the skin of their characters.

Terminus is the creation of Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe; and as you might reasonably expect, the play is a dark work that is a trademark of Irish writers and poets. It is a fine piece of writing and Irish story-telling that makes enormous demands of the three-member cast. The play’s intensity captivates the audience. It’s a theatrical challenge that is well worth taking on.

We attended a Sunday matinee, with a generous audience composition of people well north of their sixtieth birthdays. As a unit, everyone rose to give Dodd, Markus and Wilson a standing ovation in appreciation of their delivery of the playwright’s fine piece of writing.

Terminus continues at Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal until February 15. For tickets, please call the box office at 514-288-3161 or