Wednesday 25 April 2012

Wild aims to amuse Boomers-&-Beyond

Zoom Shot :  In your 50’s-70's and maybe lived all your life in Cascadia but never been camping? Fresh off a pretty traditional life in the city or the 'burbs? If so the Michele Riml script Into The Wild will surely find ways to tickle your funnybone. Derivative from the Jackie Gleason Honeymooners schtick of 60 years back, Wild finds a pre-retirement couple whose life circumstances have been sphinctered thanks to the worldwide recession we're stuck in. They are trying to imagine life without daily cappuccinos, nevermind business class flights to Europe – camping is their first toe-in-the-water at “compensating” with an "on the cheap" vacation.  Now add a quirky sister who all but loathes her brother-in-law. She roars into their campground on a recycled motorbike with some zen maintenance on her mind. The result is some quick and easy comedy for Boomers-&-Elders. No Sexy Laundry, for sure, but 2012 giggles to be had.

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Into The Wild is the sequel to Sexy Laundry, written six years and a worldwide economic implosion later. 

Thus it was almost foretold by fate it would lose some of the fizz and pop of its original juice. The freshness and surprises of Sexy Laundry in character and dialogue are somewhat muted now in a more mundane script, though giggles still prevail.

Dominatrix leathers are replaced by twill shorts and Be Prepared paraphernalia. The thunderclap F-word that banged repeatedly before is heard, off-handedly, but once.  Fact is ITW’s dialogue drizzles down to some tired sarcasms older marrieds often sling at one another when their life circumstances are strained and threatened. Fear and anger do that. Luckily there's lots of comic relief as antidote.

Henry is still a fumbleklutz. Before it was hopeless with a t.v. remote. Now he refuses to read the directions on how to hoist his new goretex tent.  This character device of a B. Eng. who can’t even light a strike-anywhere-match is to my mind a bit limp. But the nearly full-house on opening night disagreed. They guffawed robustly at all of Henry's antics.

Enter sister-in-law Diana (Beverley Elliott) who surprises Alice and Henry – on her ’70's vintage Yamaha road bike.  She brings along a quick lip and some Eckhart Tolle “nowness” that is part retro-hippie, part dipsy romantic, part zen. Henry has been fired under murky circumstances, cut loose at age 56 after 29 years of loyal service.  Thus the camping now, not cottaging.  But grudgingly on Alice's part because she is cast as a woman who can’t add fractions, therefore she fights "getting it" that Henry’s reduced pension and no job means no more shopping junkets to Paris. (Non? Alors!)  

Still and all, Michelle Riml scripts some trademark clever repartee amidst a message that life’s trappings and clutter are not its essence, nor should happiness depend on a fat bank account.

In support, the excellent Ted Roberts mossy camping scene is right out of Haida Gwaii for all its heart-of-darkness backdrop to the silly shenanigans on stage. As well, Sound Designer Geoff Hollingshead creates a very realistic B.C. campground environment and a windstorm scenario that accompanied by numerous sight gags will please and amuse. 

Wild appeals to the grays because they’ve experienced much of the life continuum Riml describes. 40-somethings won’t likely relate nearly so much : the almost constant talk of finances and pensions and retirement is not what soccer moms and hockey dads think much about. As well that group might find the sexist stereotyping objectionable (“DadATM”; Mom a Feminine Mystique holdover). No question the Sexy script will travel better over time than Wild because it is a sexier script and it’s not set in the wilds of B.C.  Sexy’s humour is more cross-generational, not aimed squarely at Boomer +++.

Having flipped out those demographic caveats, I happily report how Susinn McFarlen has many comic moments as Alice, her retail nightmare at the end of Act I but one rich example. Andrew Wheeler as Henry has almost perfect pitch for his character’s dialogue with just the right inflections and cadence, though he's perhaps a bit overweight on the word Asshole ! once or twice. There is also much stage business among all three characters that works very well theatrically, particularly the various tent sequences and the skinny-dipping scene.

Until May 26th at the GI Theatre.

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