Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Designing women

Matt Murray’s play Myth of the Ostrich centres on three hilarious female characters

Astrid Van Wieren, Alanis Peart and Renée Hackett star in Matt Murray’s play Myth of the Ostrich, a comedy about two very different approaches to parenting. Credit: Dila Velazquez

At the age of 38, gay playwright Matt Murray is starting to have parenting stirrings.

“All my siblings have children — or dogs, which is similar — so it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: Are kids in my future? What sort of parent would I be?” he says.

As a result, he’s found himself in various conversations with mothers, talking about their parenting styles. “One mother of a teenage boy said that her biggest issue was that she had long ago decided to be a permissive, hands-off sort of parent,” he says. “But actually becoming a mother made it difficult for her to keep that pact with herself.”

Another mother was quite vehemently the opposite; she was very hands-on, full of rules and had a deep resentment for parents who let their kids have all the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll they like.

Murray started to wonder: What happens when the child of a strict parent goes to visit the home of a friend, and the friend’s parents are quite permissive? How should the permissive parent enforce the rules with regard to the visiting friend?

He combined this concern with his passion for writing female characters in their late 30s and early 40s and wrote the comedy Myth of the Ostrich. It was such a hit at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival that he was asked to remount the play at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.

The play is really about three women: a strait-laced parent named Pam; a bohemian parent named Holly; and Holly’s best-friend, the brassy and outspoken Newfoundlander Cheryl.

When Pam finds what she considers an inappropriate letter from her son to his girlfriend, Holly’s daughter Jodie, Pam storms over to confront Holly. She thinks Holly’s home is a bit too relaxed in the rules department and is worried about how this affects the kids’ behaviour. The two parents and the outrageous Cheryl are stuck in a living room, hilariously trying to work out their differences.

“I love The Golden Girls, I love Designing Women, I love Sex and the City — I’ve always gravitated toward strong women in an ensemble,” Murray says. “This play is a bit of an homage to those women and that style of comedy. I think that really makes it a show for gay men.”