There is something so wonderfully tragic about the current production of "Brief Encounter" that at the end of the show, I wanted to run down to the stage and give each actor a hug, and thank them for letting me be a part of their story.
The story tropes - love, loss, and how we cope - are nothing new. There are no groundbreaking life lessons in this show. Rather, the story told is one of quiet sadness, the agony of adults who know that they have to, and eventually will, do what is right instead of what makes them happy. "Brief Encounter" is full of angst in the true sense of the word. Alec (Tristan Sturrock) and Laura (Hannah Yelland) know that what they have is real and special, and that there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.
The supporting cast is just as magnificent. It is a perfect rendition of how our own small tragedies are simply that: our own. The epic love story unfolding center stage has no effect on the budding romance between Beryl (Dorothy Atkinson) and Stanley (Gabriel Ebert), nor is it of any importance to the tempestuous relationship between Myrtle (Annette McLaughlin) and Albert (Joseph Alessi). Each couple is encased in their own unfolding plot, and blissfully unaware of the foibles of their neighbors.
Many shows live or die by their realism; reality is boring. Playwrights and directors know this, and therefore give us drama instead. It is a true pleasure to see the skill and grace with which Emma Rice creates the utterly real and yet terribly poignant world of Alec and Laura; the resulting show is nothing short of a delight.