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Expiration Date

Expiration Date
Writer: Lana Filies
Director: Lily Hayman
Meraki Arts Bar
April 27 – May 13, 2023

Tightly directed by Lily Hayman, Lana Filies’ 55-minute two-hander Expiration Date addresses issues given extra punch by the recent Roe v Wade decision. It seems that the patriarchy is more than just alive and is certainly kicking. The degree to which men have been programmed – and women also – into believing that biology and gender dictate a choice of lifestyle designated as “traditional” or “natural” still needs to be explored and challenged.

When formerly engaged couple (actors Flynn Mapplebeck, Lana Filies whose characters don’t have names) are trapped in a malfunctioning lift they reluctantly but inevitably go over the circumstances that led to their break-up. The short scene that opens the play establishes that their relationship had been longstanding and pleasantly intimate. She lets him know she has bought him a dog by giving him a present of a collar and, while he is over the moon, her expression betrays an underlying tension. We learn why later and how much that moment reveals of the play’s central concerns. It seems certain then and later as they argue, that in a different world, their affection for each other could have had a more positive outcome.

We meet M (MappleBeck) first and we are predisposed to like him by his amusing antics as he waits out of the rain. He seems a relaxed kind of guy, casually dressed, not put out by minor setbacks, and very likely to enjoy silly games with his dog. When F (Filies) arrives, running and barefoot, flustered and on edge, dressed formally, with large handbag, and proceeds to stumble awkwardly into her high heels, she is a less sympathetic character. Her extreme reactions when it becomes obvious that she is trapped in the lift make her even less sympathetic.

However,  F is under a great deal of pressure as she is on her way to an interview for a promotion. Meeting her ex-fiancé is a shock and a downer – she is living with her mother, has no boyfriend and still wears the engagement ring – and she is very aware of the difficulties facing a woman seeking advancement in a corporation. She is wedded to her professional life, but it has always been a struggle. While she presents as a strong woman, she is vulnerable to workplace discrimination, to discrimination from others – her mother, her ex-fiancé’s mother – and a society which still is uneasy with women who choose profession over motherhood.

As for  M, he believed “he was ready” to have children and had a pleasant image of himself holding a tiny confiding hand. How touching … but then he does not have the child, he does not breastfeed the child, and while his life may change it is little compared with the extent to which motherhood changes a woman’s life. While his arguments are moderately phrased and his soft manner contrasts favourably with the stridency of F, his mode of being is not at stake.

M wants to “settle” down, but it is F who will do the “settling” not M. Ironically, he will settle but for less.

The economical setting (Tyler Fitzpatrick) is super clever. The shiny closed doors of the lift which are beyond the power of either character to open present an effective metaphor of allowing past ideas of social order to constrain the present. While it is important that the woman in this narrative be free to choose where her destiny lies, it is also important that men don’t fall back on the biological imperative to claim a right to have a say in that destiny.

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