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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Theatre Review: Death Defying Acts


Exclusive to Commercial Drive – Live!

Directed by Lynna Goldhar Smith

Starring Andre Fex, John Burnside, Liz Iversen, D. Neil Mark, Christopher Pearce, Odessa Shuquaya, Reneé Bucciarelli and Gemma Isaac


I’m always interested to know why theatre companies choose to lump certain plays together when programming a night of one acts like Aumentare Productions did with it’s evening of 3 comedies by David Mamet, Elaine May and Woody Allen. In this case, the underlying theme running through them all seems to be that people just aren’t really communicating and it isn’t until it’s more or less too late that they begin to understand this. These sophisticated dark comedies are sprinkled with bitter, self-absorbed and occasionally clueless characters who seem to almost enjoy being in crisis mode. I know a few of them in my own life.

Starring John Burnside and Andre Fex, the night’s first play, David Mamet’s An Interview, is probably the most difficult piece for audiences (and cast, too, I suspect) to take on.

Frankly, I don’t believe this is one of Mamet’s best scripts. Generally, his trademark style is not necessarily about the dialogue but instead what the characters do when there is none, or sometimes what they do in spite of it.

This piece was reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First, but more surreal and obtuse. I think the two actors were working very hard to access the subtext, especially Fex – a spitting image of my Canadian B movie icon Saul Rubinek – who had a complicated string of lines to tangle through, doing so admirably, if somewhat over exuberantly on occasion. Considering this was the premiere, I’m sure subsequent performances will easily redeem the obviously talented Fex. As a matter of fact, he did just that in his role later on in Central Park West where he played the Woody Allen character to a tee (most of the actors appeared in more than one show during the evening).

Burnside is a great character actor with an intensely dower face – illuminated ominously for effect – but like his stage opposite, he seemed to struggle a little with the complicated dialogue.

He had a smaller, but what seemed to be, more comfortable role for him in the next entry, Elaine May’s Hotline, as a dishevelled call supervisor in a suicide prevention centre, training an earnest new (and anthropophobic) counsellor. I immediately identified with him in the part and wished he had more stage time.

Producer Liz Iversen takes on the role of Dorothy in this play, an antagonistic caller who seems to revel in arguing with whoever will put up with it. As the story progresses Iversen successfully pulls out her character’s humanity. She has a great sense of comedic timing and is very fun to watch.

The other shining star of Hotline was Christopher Pearce, the newbie counsellor who soon discovers that, although he has a real knack for saving lives, sometimes it takes more than answering the phone. He is passionate and animated.

This fast-moving, quick-witted piece made great use of staging, lights and sound.

The icing on the cake was definitely Central Park West, Woody Allen’s play about two affluent couples dealing with betrayal, rejection and growing old. The ensemble cast were very strong, notably the two female leads, Reneé Bucciarelli and Odessa Shuqaya, who played well off of one another and were thoroughly believable in their roles. D. Neil Mark was also strong as Bucciarelli’s philandering husband who gets his proverbial comeuppance in the end.

This is an evening well-worth attending, as much for the acting as for the scripts. Time flew by and the laughs were plentiful. Kudos to Lynna Goldhar Smith for her intuitive direction.

Death Defying Acts runs until May 5, 2007 at Havana Theatre.


For specific dates and times and to order tickets call 604-813 9409

www.aumentare.com

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