Toronto Diary
2 min

Melancholy Play won’t get you down

My first real experience with the Summerworks Festival continues to impress me. I caught Melancholy Play, a hilarious and poignant look at sadness that’s been catching some well-deserved buzz so far. It’s my top pick of plays I’ve caught so far.

From the program guide: “Tilly’s sadness is exquisite – irresistable and sexy – and everyone falls in love with her. On day, inexplicably, Tilly becomes happy, wreaking havoc on the lives of her paramours.” Queer content: Tilly and a pair of lesbians all fall in some kind of love with each other. Also, costumes that seem cribbed from Sex and the City.

I chatted with director Rosa Laborde, whose previous queer-themed play Leo earned her a Governor-General’s award nomination, about the erotics of sadness.


Rob Salerno: Were Ingrid Rae Doucet’s hair and costume – black sequined cocktail dress, tutu and red wedges – a conscious attempt to invoke Sarah Jessica Parker’s garb from the opening credits of Sex and the City? What do you think of the way melancholy is eroticised in popular culture?

Rosa Laborde: Funny you should mention that! When Patrick Duwors – our unbelievably gifted and genius set and costume designer – and I were talking about Tilly’s character and he was figuring out her dress, he asked me for some references and I said ‘Carrie Bradshaw,’ so yes! But until you asked this question I had not put together that our dress is so very much like the white get-up that SJP sports in opening credits.
Is melancholy eroticised? I feel like a yucky kind of desperate-falling-apart-you-have-to-be-a-disaster-to-be-a-creative-person thing is eroticised in our fame and fortune obsessed society but is that true melancholy? Melancholy to me, and I think this is supported by Ruhl’s play is as she says so eloquently “a necessary bodily humour due to things that grow and pass…” Is this eroticised? No. I think the opposite. I think we have become a society hell bent on consumeristic happy pill popping buying machines who do not allow ourselves to suffer without assuming there is something terribly wrong with us and chastising ourselves for having feelings. Perhaps true melancholy should be eroticised! Maybe we’d be happier! Ha. 
RS: Project Undertow’s mandate is to “create….experiences that are innovative and political.” What to you is political about Melancholy Play?
RL: Well, I am particularly drawn to finding the political in the personal and for me Melancholy Play does that by playfully poking at the way that we live and how out of balance it can be…it is a little tiny microcosm of our kooky upside world.
RS: This is your second collaboration with Salvatore Antonio after he played the title role in your previous queer-themed smash hit, Leo. What’s it like to work together again after a few years?
RL: Like eating my favourite pasta and drinking a great glass of wine. So good. Salvatore Antonio is a light – his talent abounds and he is fearless – no doubt we will work together again.
RS: In Melancholy Play, depression and sadness are fun, erotic, and funny at the same time. Do you find sadness erotic? If so, what about it?

RL:  Do I find sadness erotic? Hmm…I don’t know if I find depression and sadness erotic. But yes, I find melancholy erotic in that when someone or I am in a melancholy mood it tends to feel closer to the truth of existence. And anything that leads me down a mystical or more truthful and connected path I find deeply erotic.

Melancholy Play plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace tonight at 10:30, Wed at 6:30, Thurs at 4:30, and Sat at 10:30. Tickets are available at the door or at