The Grandkid succeeds with its cast of two finding the right chemistry

In The Grandkid, Pippa Mackie is a fresh-faced university student and Richard Newman is a university professor nearing the end of his teaching career. - Tim Matheson
In The Grandkid, Pippa Mackie is a fresh-faced university student and Richard Newman is a university professor nearing the end of his teaching career.
— image credit: Tim Matheson

There's usual terms of endearment, like sweetie, honey and dear. And there's the lesser-known one of family members calling each other by their last name.

The characters from the new Gateway Theatre production of John Lazarus's The Grandkid—university student Abby and her widowed professor of a grandfather—deploy that lovable label. As in "Hi, Rothstein." "Oh, hello Rothstein."

They're a unique pair in a unique situation: they're roommates. Abby (Pippa Mackie) moves into the home of grandpa Julius (Richard Newman) while she attends university. Julius has an empty room and a desire to connect with Abby—the daughter of his son, with whom he isn't connecting well.

The story is built into a relatively long two-hour play, which thankfully is well cast. The actors manage to wring out an entertaining chemistry.

Abby arrives with backpacks and suitcases, and Julius quickly reveals a plot plank. The Loyalist theatre is under threat, and Julius wants to preserve it as a sanctuary for film. We later learn Abby's contrary opinion on the matter. There's more these two disagree about, but what young woman would see eye-to-eye with a family member two generations removed?

Weighing heavy on Abby's mind is her dad's affair, and learning of her grandfather's own infidelity. She seems like a person who could easily absorb it all, but Abby runs away.

The Grandkid is a new play, premiering in 2012. It raises big questions of life and death, but it's short on action and unfolds on a static set enlivened only by video projections during scene changes.

There's nonetheless moments of sweetness—Abby insisting on finishing her late grandmother's dress, Julius baring his soul in an obituary—and we're given strong performances from Newman and Mackie, who make a cool and comfortable connection that shows us love has a way of winning. That, and making us call our sweeties by their family name.

The Grandkid by John Lazarus

•On at Gateway Theatre's MainStage until April 26

•Tickets, $30 to $49, at gatewaytheatre.com or 604-270-1812

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