Review by Danny Gaisin
Michael Jacobs play ‘CHEATERS’ comes in two versions; seems critics; audiences and the playwright himself decided the original needed tweaking. Can’t say if W.E.S.T.’s presentation is ‘101’ or 2.0, but while the play may be dated, the rendering now at the Oakville Centre until Feb. 7th is a critic’s nightmare…so perfectly produced; directed; staged and acted as to leave no little kvetch for this scribe to prove I was paying attention throughout the performance. It’s that immaculate a piece of theatre and a thespian gem.
The plot deals with a young co-habiting couple who are on the brink of taking it to the ultimate (read wedlock) level but there are emotional and maturity hurdles to overcome. Additionally, there are two other parallel plots presented in first Act skit form… infidelity, hence the play’s title. Any additional information would be a ‘spoiler’.
The direction by Yo Mustafa reflects impeccable timing; exquisite zinger deliveries; heightened body language and faultless blocking. This is definitely a ‘talking’ play so underlining for emphasis is tantamount. All six protagonists excel at defining the director’s intent. The two youngsters are portrayed by Ally Matas as Michelle, and Curtis John playing Allen – her roomie. Both are new to WEST but exhibit a dramatic talent that never crosses into histrionics. They are both credible and in many instances, identifiable with interrelationships most of us have experienced.
The (more) mature cast-members are Ilene Elkaim; Rod McTaggart; Chris Reid & Deb Dagenais. We’ve previously had the opportunity to see Reid & Dagenais’ work and both are completely professional. As Sam and Grace, their role interpretations are diametric or Alpha/Omega dog designations. Each one’s role analysis is credible without being stereotype. The scene where Reid has to help in the kitchen sees him exit stage-right with such a hangdog demeanor one would swear he dropped 50 lbs.’ and four inches in a moment! Dagenais gives her ‘Grace’ character many negative qualities but she manages to convey a persona who uses negativity as a defensive mechanism.
The other ‘grownups’ are Ilene Elkaim as ‘Monica’ and Rod McTaggart playing Howard. Both actors bring such credibility to their portrayals that identification with oneself or one’s acquaintances is involuntary. She’s a softie; he’s pragmatic and a little abusive; but both are sympathetic and human characters.
There are three other personas: – the housekeepers who change the sets so humorously as to glean applause with every scene modification. We’re not aware if this was an idea of Jacobs or another of those infamous innovative Mustafa gimmicks…but it sure works.
CHEATERS will be at the Oakville Centre for four more performances…Not to be missed.