Review by Danny Gaisin
Baseball has it’s ‘double header’; opera ‘s “Pagliacci” & “Cavalleria Rusticana” are always performed as a duo; and theatre has the two one-act efforts – Shaffer’s BLACK COMEDY and Stoppard’s THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND performed sequentially. Oakville’s Drama Series has both entries directed by Jeff Morrison; so he must work under two distinct mindsets and two different cast teams. A challenge, but one that is well met.
Black Comedy is unusual in that it is a ‘reversed lighting’ process, i.e. the stage is lit for the major period of a blackout, but is in almost total darkness when the power comes on.
For those unfamiliar with this style one usually overhears comments about an on or off-stage screw-up! Not so- just a flip-flop of normalcy! The plot deals with a young artist and his fiancee who are expecting a collector to visit his apartment. To upscale the decor, they borrow expensive furnishings from an across-the-hall neighbour. Said neighbour returns just after a visit by the fiancee’s Dad; another resident; and the artist’s mistress. Shades of Norm Foster!
The pivotal character is artist Brindsley Miller and Tyler Collins contributes a ton of physical activity and motion to his portrayal. Every struggle; prevarication; pratfall and interaction is exhausting and corporeal. The fiancee is Ally Matas and unfortunately, her personification is two-dimensional; the opposite of Jack van Roosmalen who is Pattonesque in his military bearing & manner. The strongest support comes from Ashleigh McCarthy as the mistress and especially Paul Groulx whose role interpretation is obvious and over-scored. He is a poseur who can elicit guffaws with just a snide grin, and posture stance.
The interaction is more inter RE-action and thus a difficult task for both performer and director. The cast members seem to have sufficient talent to make portrayals sincere if somewhat incredible, given the basic premise and the plethora of perversity. The play is silly but entertaining.
— INTERMISSION —
The Real Inspector Hound is a story about theatre critics…kind of touches home! Two reviewers, one a horny writer always willing to trade a good write-up for a sexual favour; and a second-stringer who is a last minute send-in. Paul Wilson is the former and Franny Mcabe-Bennett is the distaff part of the duo. He’s pragmatic, she’s pedantic and their dialogue opinions as well as their prolific note-taking have a ring of truth. I’ve been known to be guilty of all of the above, except the Weinstein-ish behaviour.
Jennifer Farrugia’s maid representation is way off the hammy scale, so her pace and posture glean giggles. Her bosses are Aimee Kessler Evans as Lady Cynthia, and Christopher Hemming as the laird of the manor. She’s in an extra-marital affair with David Kinlough’s ‘Simon’, and he has just ended a fling with Emma Goegan who is pure eye candy in her tennis outfit. She has an innate sense of timing that underscores her bon mots and repartee.
Given that ‘Hound‘ is a mystery play within-a-play scenario, reprising the plot intricacies would be a spoiler. So …enough said. Anyone familiar with Agatha Christie will recognize certain plagiarized ideas (locale, isolation; myriad clues & ‘red herrings’ etc. But overall, it too, makes for a fun and entertaining presentation.
Both W.E.S.T. plays are at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts until February 11th.