Review by Danny Gaisin
The arrangement of presenting two short plays with a common theme seems to be a successful concept for Dundas Little Theatre. The October ‘Infidelity’ duo was a success and the current stage effort “The Play’s The Thing” certainly merits accolades. Directed by Peter Lloyd, Rattigan’s 67-year-old comedy – ‘Harlequinade’ bootlegs the genus of the 17th century pantomime. Under Lloyd’s construal, we can deride and lampoon the egocentricity of committed theatre folk who can only view the world as it relates to the stage.
A critic’s job is partially to chronicle the thespian talents on stage and especially to articulate appalling enactment. However, what if the primary intent IS to demonstrate almost inexcusable hamminess and dramatic exaggeration? In this case, the histrionics and melodramatics on stage are de rigeuer, thus the direction and execution make the presentation work. The plotline deals with an aging married duo that travel wartime England playing Shakespeare. Under their performing style and direction – poor Willy loses!
The lead protagonists are Tim Hevesi & Rose Pye who certainly aren’t the teenaged Romeo and Juliet. Neither can they depict the emotions of the original star-crossed lovers. The balcony scene rehearsal that opens the performance is pure hilarity; especially for those of us somewhat familiar with the original. Supported by strong renderings from A.J. Haygarth as their producer; Elaine Hale as the seriously past her ‘best before’ date inebriated Helen Mirren; and the totally overworked stage manageress Kate Hawtin; there is a receptive sensitivity between all of the characters. Haygarth effectively utilizes eye expressions to heavily underscore his dialogue, while Hevesi’s cough-overs when saying names he’s immediately forgotten become a standard and almost telegraphed guffaw throughout the play. A surprise daughter – ‘Muriel’ brings a major obstacle into the mix. Her role execution is contributory except for an overabundance of ‘flounce’. Readers may recall this scribe’s dislike of flounce.
The second presentation is Mosel’s short but impacting drama ‘IMPROMPTU’. A darkened stage is the result of a tardy stage manager who has invited four actors to an audition… play unknown. Finally, illumination and the audience sees the quartet who physically stereotype familiar character roles. When they realize that there is an audience, they proceed to improvise but introspective self-examination plus the observations of the others on-stage demonstrate to each other as well as the audience just how shallow they are when not being their typecast ‘characters’.
The ‘male hero’ type is Les Blackmore who automatically feels he must assume directorial duties and role assignments. Blackmore projects all of the instincts and charisma a star encompasses even to presumptuously expecting automatic acceptance by his associates. The “female lead’s best friend” is Julie Gross and both her demeanor and dialogue are realistic portrayals of the genus. Amazing how effective posture can be on a stage. The requisite ingénue is Kit Simmons who certainly looks the part. Her sincerity and desire for approval by the others is tangible. The rebellious teenager is played to the hilt by Robert Brown. From his slouch, to an effectively directed lie-down at the edge of the stage; we can feel his angst and self-awareness of what he isn’t.
The play may be brief but the impact is powerful. Together with Harlequinade anyone who enjoys theatre will benefit from this exposure of what life and attitude is behind the curtain. We get both a humorous and cutting view of the relationships, desires and oftimes – complexes that are endemic in the thespian world. We see the warts as well as the makeup. Director Lloyd and his actors capture the very essence of what the personalities and psyches go into a person who desires a ‘life upon the wicked stage’! “TPTT” is at the Dundas Little Theatre until February 1st. Call 905-627-5266