The Sunday Magazine

Hannah Moscovitch's provocative new play encourages a nuanced, open conversation in the age of #MeToo

In the age of #MeToo, #TimesUp, Harvey Weinstein and countless sexual predators, it can be hard to have a nuanced and open conversation about sexual misconduct in all its varieties without people becoming angry or defensive. But that's exactly what one of Canada's funniest and most talented playwrights — Hannah Moscovitch — encourages, with her provocative new play Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes.
Alice Snaden and Matthew Edison in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. (Joy von Tiedemann Photography Inc.)

Hannah Moscovitch has been exploring the nuanced edges of controversy ever since she emerged as one of Canada's hottest playwrights.

Hannah Moscovitch is an award-winning and internationally acclaimed playwright. (Alejandro Santiago)

She invites her audiences to let go of black and white truth and to contemplate the uncomfortable unknowns that real life presents. Her latest production, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, is a prime example.

"It's a topic that's been dealt with a lot in all narrative and in theatre in particular but rarely from the point of view of a female author," Moscovitch told The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright in a recent interview. "It felt like it was time for women to write one of these pieces about abuse of authority from a woman's perspective."

The play opened at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre in early January and heads straight into the thicket of #MeToo times and sexual politics. And it happens to be onstage as the Harvey Weinstein trial unfolds in New York.

Born in Ottawa, Moscovitch was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award in the drama category in 2019. Her award-winning plays have been staged all over the world. And in 2016, she became the first Canadian to win Yale University's Windham-Campbell Prize.

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is a two-actor play — told from the viewpoint of Jon, a 42-year-old professor and successful writer.  He's a literary star, but his personal life is falling apart.

Alice Snaden plays the role of Annie in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes (Joy von Tiedemann Photography Inc.)

Along comes Annie, a 19-year-old student who is infatuated with her teacher. One thing leads to another, they have an affair, and, well, things go sideways.

Minutes after the play opens, it's obvious where things are headed. But there's no one-dimensional bad guy or victim. And that's what makes the play so interesting.

Alice Snaden, who plays Annie, was born in London, Ont. She's a film, theatre and television actor and trained as a ballet dancer before she attended the National Theatre School.

Matthew Edison plays the role of Jon Macklem in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes (Joy von Tiedemann Photography Inc.)

Matthew Edison, an actor and writer who has been nominated for a couple of Dora Awards, plays the role of Jon Macklem. Like the playwright, he too was born in Ottawa, and is — coincidentally — the great, great, great grand-nephew of Thomas Edison.

The playwright and cast members spoke with Enright about the nuanced crafting of the play, its characters and its resonance in the era of #MeToo.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.

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