Skip to main content

REVIEW: DEATH: A Love Story at Dandelion Theatre

iPhoto caption: Photo by Ally Mackenzie.
/By / Aug 20, 2023

The only thing worse than being alone in purgatory: being alone in purgatory with your ex. That muddle of unresolved feelings, heartbreak, and gripes left unaired is the basis for Max Ackerman’s 45-minute play DEATH: A Love Story

Moonie (Sophie Rivers) and Jack (Sivert Das) are exes. It also appears they are two not-really-that-dead dead people. When they awaken from their respective deaths (and presumed descent into a nebulous nothingness), they find themselves lying next to one another in some kind of ether. It is them alone, in front of a giant talking screen that one might describe as the riddle-loving Siri of the afterworld. The play spirals from Jack and Moonie’s recognition of one another, to their desperate attempts to uncover their memories of their deaths, and of course, along the way, various hidden truths about their former relationship. 

Dandelion Theatre, the play’s production company, of which Ackerman also serves as artistic director, touts “oral storytelling” as its primary artistic objective. The company’s privileging of the spoken word brings a necessary context to the overall composition of DEATH: A Love Story, which offers the audience little other than the verbal divulging of past hurts between Moonie and Jack. Most of the staging is simple, and the lighting intentionally stark; this play is at its core, really just a conversation. 

In the few moments that Ackerman does take risks with the staging, his more theatrical strengths shine through. Such long stretches of rumination and ex-lovers’ quarreling make scenes such as Moonie’s recounting of a romantic evening from their past feel like a much needed disruption from the constant back-and-forth dialogue. As she slips into the memory, a galactical projection overcomes the blinding whiteness of the room and the audience re-lives a re-enactment of the tenderness between Jack and Moonie. It is our only real glimpse into what was (that and Jack’s slippage into his comical alter ego “Sir Jack the Bold”), but it is the moment that makes their relationship feel the most real, or like something of value that might be missed. 

DEATH: A Love Story feels like a play that wants to be in cinemas. From the nature of the plot and characters, it is clear that Ackerman has drawn significantly from a wealth of rom-coms, adhering to a certain kind of long lost lovers convention, or perhaps her has imagined what might happen if Orpheus and Euridyce got a second chance in the sci-fi realm. Various cinematic elements including overlapping monologues to a punchy beat, rolling credits on the screen, and an admirable movie-like original score, composed by Checkout Queens (a local punk band) makes the play feel like a stage adaptation of a pre-existing film. If anything, this would be an interesting avenue for the artists to further explore, as Ackerman seems to be hitting on a certain kind of nostalgia for mid-2010s young adult literature and film. 

Rivers and Das put on a commendable performance for a narrative that deals with a number of heavy themes. Not only must Jack and Moonie reckon with the end of their own lives, but it seems that in their pasts, they were independently haunted by their own forms of grief. Jack’s history with mental illness and addiction is much more clearly defined than Moonie’s struggles with the loss of her parents. Her grief seems to exist more in relation to Jack’s inability to support her. At times this means that textually the story is more about Jack’s growth than Moonie’s, whose emotions are written in a way that could afford to be deepened. This aside, the intimacy between Das and Rivers feels very real and encapsulating of two individuals who once knew each other in the deepest of ways. In fact, the lovers are more concerned with their crumbled relationship than the fact that their lives have come to an abrupt end — now that’s near the definition of love. 

While much of DEATH: A Love Story does not stray from convention, and occasional cliches (such as a kintsugi ceramics metaphor), it certainly succeeds in the aims that Dandelion Theatre sets out for it. The play is earnest and brutal in its commitment to loving love, and the guttural pain of missing a partner, when “it feels like someone took the light out of [my] life and replaced it with candles.” Ackerman’s production is a revisitation of soulmates, whose reconciliation and second chance at being together (forever) is ultimately endearing to witness. 

DEATH: A Love Story closed on August 20. You can learn more about Dandelion Theatre here.

Intermission reviews are independent and unrelated to Intermission’s partnered content. Learn more about Intermission’s partnership model here.

Sarah Jean Abernethy

Sarah Jean Abernethy

Sarah Jean Abernethy is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto with an HBA in English and Drama. Formerly an editor at The Strand, Sarah is an emerging writer, theatre artist, and academic set to pursue an MPhil in English Studies at the University of Cambridge, where her research will focus on literature, feminism, and theatrical theory.



  • 1.oev-lienz Jul 3, 2024

    I recommend this spell caster..!!,


    Thanks_______DR_MA C K ( YA h o o .C om)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

iPhoto caption: Photos courtesy of the productions photographed. From L-R, top to bottom: 86 Me, Bus Stop, Rosamund, 1 Santosh Santosh 2 Go, Far-Flung Peoples, Death of a Starman, See You Tomorrow, Before We Go, and Gulp.

Toronto Fringe’s New Young Reviewers 2024 | Round Two

The second round of reviews from the Toronto Fringe's New Young Reviewers program is here!

By Toronto Fringe New Young Reviewers Program
the last timbit iPhoto caption: Photo by Dahlia Katz.

REVIEW: The Last Timbit is a surprisingly charming commercial gem

The Last Timbit, a show of snow and sweets, had a limited run at the Elgin Theatre in June and is getting a streaming release on Crave on August 12. I, for one, am more than curious to see how a wider audience will react.

By Andrea Perez
company of fools iPhoto caption: Photo by JVL Photography.

REVIEW: An unabashedly feminist Macbeth hits all the right notes in Ottawa

Kate Smith's pointed interpretation of the classic tragedy is a definite highlight and forecasts riveting things sure to be in store for Fools’ future programming.

By Eve Beauchamp
A collage of photos from the productions reviewed iPhoto caption: Photos courtesy of the productions photographed. From L-R, top to bottom: The Apartment, MONKS, the bluffs, Colonial Circus, Rat Academy, Remembrance, Koli Kari, Escape From Toronto, and Sheila The Musical.

Toronto Fringe’s New Young Reviewers 2024 | Round One

The first round of reviews from the Toronto Fringe's New Young Reviewers program is here!

By Toronto Fringe New Young Reviewers Program
mary's wedding iPhoto caption: Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Festival Theatre.

REVIEW: Lighthouse Theatre brings haunting edge to Mary’s Wedding

If you, like me, enjoy touching tales of love and loss, then you’ll be happy you saw Mary’s Wedding, even if you leave in tears.

By Mae Smith
Poster for the 2024 Toronto Fringe Festival. iPhoto caption: Poster courtesy of Toronto Fringe.

REVIEWS: Toronto Fringe 2024

This collection of Toronto Fringe Festival capsule reviews will be updated throughout the festival with writing from eight different critics.

By Alethea Bakogeorge, , Ryan Borochovitz