Nightwood Theatre and Sulong Theatre present, Calpurnia, a provocative look at class, race, and family dynamics under the roof of a wealthy Jamaican-Canadian home. As Julie, a screenwriter, seeks to redress To Kill a Mockingbird through the perspective of Calpurnia (the Finch family maid) by updating the context to include millennial ideology and terminology, she is met with much dissent from her own family members, in particular her brother Mark. When she takes the stage “in character” during a formal family dinner with invited guests, things begin to go astray quite quickly, in somewhat comedic yet thought provoking fashion.

A novel that’s considered to be a classic tale, has been tackled for what some believe its now questionable subject matter that was accepted as is and unchallenged at the time it was published in 1960, during the height of Martin Luther King’s civil rights activism. Director and Playwright, Audrey Dwyer, has created a piece that should leave audience members thinking about current day issues of race relations, class struggles, sexism, and systemic racism.

The play itself is somewhat a reflection of the novel that was based around a Black family without a mother figure, based in Alabama during the 1930s depression era.  A single father is trying to make ends meet while raising his two children, with the help of his maid, Calpurnia. This current adaptation has a similar Black motherless family being raised by a single father and maid Precy (Carolyn Fe), only they are a well-to-do family living in the upper class neighbourhood of Forrest Hill in Toronto.

Mark doesn’t believe Julie has the right or authority to call out the novel for its troubled story line, as she is a Black women of privilege, with no Black friends. Her father Lawrence (Andrew Moodie) just wants to see both of his children succeed, Julie (Meghan Swaby) as a writer, and Mark (Matthew Brown) as a lawyer. He supports both and will do anything for them. Race and racism are explored quite overtly, making one consider the actual context of each. Mark is dating  his Caucasian partner Christine (Natasha Greenblatt), who tries her hardest to be politically correct in all aspects of the term. When neighbour James (Don Allison) is invited over to dinner by Lawrence to potentially offer Mark a position at his law firm, Christine calls him out as a white supremacist and racist, despite the fact James says he’s far from that, being married to a Black women. There’s also a point where Julie calls their housemaid a servant, which Percy strongly objects being referred to as.

What comes out of all this is an opportunity for individuals to check their own privileges and ideologies in today’s modern world. Looking back to the 1930s, or 1960s, are things really that much different today? The play is well written, well acted, and well worth your time!

Calpurnia – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto

On Now Until February 4th

REGULAR $35 STUDENT / SENIOR / ARTSWORKER $25 (only available by phone or in person)

Every Sunday, a block of tickets will be held for sale at the door starting at noon and you can pay whatever you want. Limit 2 per person, cash only.

A limited number of $20 Rush Tickets will be available for performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (excluding opening night).

For more information, including Group Rates and Rush Ticket policies, click here.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out -