The original Claudia was portrayed by playwright, Kristen Thomson, almost 20 years ago on a Toronto stage.  Thomson starred in the 2004 motion picture.  But in this intense one woman show on Neptune Theatre’s Scotiabank Stage, Lucy Hill completely inhabits the four diverse characters in I, Claudia.

Claudia is a pre-teen (12 ¾ years old, to be exact … as she is) dealing with the usual angst.  Trying to maintain friendships, handling the onset of puberty, and caught in the stinging aftermath of her parents’ divorce.  All with the brash mix of over-confidence and self-consciousness that only a girl of Claudia’s age can somehow wrap into one flamboyant personality. 

Hill shines as Claudia, and as the other female character, Leslie, the barfly “other woman” that Claudia’s dad has left her mother for.   It galls Claudia to be Leslie’s choice as flower girl at their wedding, since she’s far too old for the gig … not to mention the ridiculous getup.  It’s even worse that she’s forced to spend time with Leslie and her bridesmaids.  As much as Claudia lives for the wonderful days she spends at her father’s apartment, she’s also left to witness her mom’s post-divorce depression.  She blames Leslie for grinding down an otherwise brilliant and beautiful woman.  And she sums up Leslie as no better than a piece of crap on her mother’s shoe.  It’s pretty raw stuff.  But any child of a nasty divorce can relate.

Masks are used to depict each of the four characters, including Drachman, the theatre aficionado from Eastern Europe who winds up as an elementary school janitor in Canada.  And in a single affecting scene, Douglas, Claudia’s grandfather. 

Hill’s talent propels this show and explodes from the stage.  Her portrayal of all four characters is enjoyable and satisfying.  But I enjoyed the interplay of Claudia and Leslie so much, the 90 minute program could easily have focused only on the two, as they delivered the emotional high points of the show and left me wanting more of them.  Hill mines so many idiosyncrasies of the young girl, drawing breathlessly from her juice box, and the stepmother-to-be, fumbling to find her way as a young, occasionally-still-wild, aspiring career woman thrust into a relationship with her new stepdaughter, like it or not.

I, Claudia opens on the Scotiabank Stage tonight (February 9) until February 19. 

One other note … if you have a chance to see Karen Myatt in Songs of the Silver Screen, this weekend at Neptune’s Fountain Hall, do it!  Once upon a time, I was lead tenor in a Gilbert & Sullivan Society Of Nova Scotia cast that included a young Karen Myatt.  Woah.  It wasn’t hard to see where her talent would take her.  And after gracing stages from Neptune to New York, she’s back home to headline this great demonstration of her vocal talents.  See a true rising star this weekend, February 9 – 12.