Christopher Imbrosciano and Bahareh Yaraghi star as John and Jess in "Cost of Living." // Set design by Drew Facey; costume design by Amy McDougall; lighting design by Rebecca Picherack. Photo by David Cooper
Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living is about human connection: both the connections we make and the ones that don’t quite click. As the artistic director of the Citadel writes in the program, it is a story “that explores the space where bodies—on the spectrum of abled and disabled—meet each other,” and, as such, it is also a story that is fundamentally about understanding each other across gaps of difference.
John (Christopher Imbrosciano) is a wealthy Princeton Ph.D. student with cerebral palsy who hires Jess (Bahareh Yaraghi), a Princeton graduate working all of the jobs just to get by, to be his caretaker. On the other side of the socio-economic divide, Ani (Teal Sherer) is paralyzed in a car accident and has her estranged husband Eddie (Ashley Wright) show up offering to help her.
John and Jess struggle to connect with one another, while Eddie fights for Ani to let him in, despite their history.
Wright nails the role of Eddie, a sensitive, caring trucker. His character has moments of real vulnerability, and Wright does an excellent job of inviting the audience to share in those moments. There is a subtle chemistry between Wright and Sherer that allows for some of their more intimate moments together to feel endlessly human. As Ani, Sherer does a great job of building up and then gradually breaking down her character’s defenses.
Cost of Living is surprisingly funny, and John has a number of funny lines. Imbrosciano did an excellent job of conveying both the character’s humour and his intensity. The chemistry between him and Yaraghi makes for some delightful, as well as heartbreaking, scenes. For her part, Yaraghi, like Sherer, does a great job of portraying a woman who’s not big on the idea of letting down her guard—but when she does, the audience’s hopes rise with hers.
Drew Facey’s rotating set allows for seamless scene transitions and the design works in such a way that the same larger set pieces function for both John’s chic apartment and Ani’s more humble abode. Dave Clarke’s sound design is on point and helps create a rich world on stage, while Rebecca Picherack’s lighting design is beautiful.
Overall, Cost of Living is definitely worth the cost of admission.
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