Review by Danny Gaisin
If you are the type of person who recalls-mirthfully, the famous ‘Chuckles the Clown’ episode from the 70’s Mary Tyler Moore Show; or the ‘Dropping the urn’ installment from “Wings”; you’ll certainly get a giggle or three out of Act I. And if you are the sort of mature person who appreciates clever twists and surprises; Act II of the Oakville Players staging of Eric Chappell’s WIFE AFTER DEATH will definitely have an impact. We enjoyed watching it from both points of view! Photo courtesy of Janet Bedford
There is always a risk in writing about a play’s narrative that one may ruin surprises or even diminish impact. The director and his excellent cast deserve better…so, a brief outline: – friends of a recently deceased comedy performer (a la Victor Borge) gather at the widow’s home. The writer/best friend & his wife, plus the agent and spouse are there to offer moral support. Clever comments during the widow’s absences give the audience an insight into the dead performer’s life; relationships, image and mores. Seems everybody loves dead Dave! In the second act, we, and his friends glean a little more insight.
The director of this undertaking is Bernard Pointet and this is certainly his canvas. The timing, projection, pregnant pauses and the understated comedic zingers are all perfectly delivered; as if his entire cast were experienced stand-up professionals. Robert Laszcz is the writer, and even his deportment mirrors his character. His wife is portrayed by Linda Morawiec and she’s one bang-on interpreter of a specific type of spouse. The scene where she’s sweeping ashes with the Bissell™ is a silent-but-deadly (pun intended) gem. The agent is played by David Raitt and his other half is Mary Stockwell. Somehow, they physically don’t seem to appear a couple; (he’s nerdy, she’s hot), but there is obviously a chemistry between them, so their dialogues ring true, not only verbally but in body language as well.
That leaves the overly-dramatic widow- Laura. Dressed to kill (another intentional reference to the title), she’s so obviously over-mourning, that suspicions immediately rise. If this was a murder mystery, she’d be suspect Numero uno! Ilene Elkaim plays her to the hilt and even puts a little vamp into all her entries and especially those exits. Her tightly fitted no-so-simple black dresses accentuate HER, more than her state of bereavement. Speaking of dresses, the costumes are all very ‘today’ and certainly stylish. The last character (except for the stiff) is Kay, and Wendy Oughtred is a little too coy and supercilious. The second act gives the audience the rationale for such a representation.
I’ve personally attended funerals where decorum has been shattered; where eulogistic word choices become titter-stimulae; and even those where the tributes are so outlandish and ill-suited that it causes the congregation to squirm. Audience empathy with the folks on stage makes “WIFE AFTER DEATH” an experience that may feel somewhat déja vu. That’s what makes theatre (and sometimes funerals) fun. Dave and his survivors will be on-stage at the Oakville Centre [905-815-2021]until March 30th.