Saturday 17 March 2018

I Lost My Husband a femme Peter Pan farce
All the basic condition theatre requires is that fire last night & those costumes 
& the human voice & people gathered together.  
Sir Trevor Nunn, Director (Cats, 1981 \ Les Miserables, 1985)
From the footlights :  There are two ways to look at I Lost My Husband. Director Diane Brown of Ruby Slippers calls it a "subversive comedy". The alternative is to see it as "full-on farce" from a femme fatale perspective, but really with no social purpose whatever except to incite giggles.

The lead is 30-something Evelyn (Meghan Gardiner). She owns a frozen yogurt shop but mostly she's a barfly at the Capri where she does non-stop karaoke almost every night until closing time or until her beer money dries up. She has ongoing hissy-fits with 20-year-old bartender Melissa (Agnes Tong) who is, by her own admission, beautiful beyond mere words.

Evelyn bets Melissa over lyrics to the song "Black Velvet", assuming Melissa won't get the 3rd verse right. If she loses, Melissa's prize is Evelyn's mid-50-ish husband Peter who owns the local BMW dealership. (Evelyn stole him away from Marriage #1.) "That's the only thing you own that I'm even remotely interested in," Melissa taunts her. And promptly wins. And Peter equally promptly vacates home to join her.

Karaoke queen Evelyn (Meghan Gardiner) belts out for the 4th time the Alannah Myles chart "Black Velvet" while bartender Melissa (Agnes Tong) does the iPhone 6 video capture.
Photo credit David Cooper

What the show brings to the stage :  Playwright-in-Residence at Gateway Theatre Leanna Brodie translated Quebec playwright Catherine Leger's original 2014 script and re-set it in B.C. just before marijuana is legalized. The result as directed by Ms. Brown is non-stop hilarity as we watch Evelyn execute the bejesus out of her juvenile You-go-girrrrrlll! ego right through to the end of this 80-minute show.

We learn that Melissa, unlike Evelyn, can cook. Her pot roast thrills Peter. Quite a change from "Costco generation" Evelyn whose hand at the stove is limited to prepackaged frozen dinners. Still, never mind the old adage of to-the-heart-through-the-stomach, after two weeks Peter hasn't even tried to hustle Melissa into bed despite her beauty. Maybe her being a Police Academy student puts him off.

Evelyn monologues with an off-stage couples' therapist. She writes confessional letters to Peter as counseled, but they're less bridgehead toward better times than endless bitching about him not giving her $150,000 to open a Tim Horton's franchise. She smokes weed with stepson William (Curtis Tweedie) and shares brain-fogged riffs about capitalism with William's drug dealer "independent entrepreneur" Steve (Raugi Yu). In the end, urged on by Steve, she arsons her frozen yogurt shop and puts the insurance vig toward her own hoped-for dopey clients.

Stepson William (Curtis Tweedie) challenges drug dealer Steve (Raugi Yu) about the wisdom of his advice to Evelyn for her to torch her failing frozen yogurt shop and blame it on "feminist hate crime".
Photo credit David Cooper
Production values that shine through : For its part Gateway's Studio B blackbox set is the perfect venue. Designer John Webber puts together on centre stage a Jordan's living room matching leather chesterfield and chair ensemble that befit a smug party-boy BMW dealer. Opposite, downstage left, the diminutive Capri karaoke bar. Webber's lighting design toggles nimbly between scenes in each. 

Hannah Case's costumes were ace for their variety and grabbiness. Sound designer Cuttler's raucous guitar rips were choice, but from my front row seat stage left I found the t.v. background chattery made Melissa and William's centre stage dialogue frustratingly hard to hear.

Acting pin-spots :  Why mix words. Meghan Gardiner is the show. She kills the role of Evelyn with one of the most dazzling and energized and engaged bits of comic self-satire I've witnessed on Vancouver stages in six years of doing BLR. All the others -- no disparagement here -- are but foils for her knock-out riff on a 30's brazen wife-stealer who never wants to grow up. She's dead-set on becoming Peter Pan all dolled up as Alannah Miles in black velvet magnified through the lens of Jon Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer".

William dopes his way through a mid-college "gap year" watching reality t.v. shows that dim his already fizzy-&-amateur sociologist student brain a bit further. Tweetie's depiction of him as a stoner and wannabe lover of Melissa is fun indeed. Tong's Melissa for her part is a touching naif who comes of age, finally -- talking all of 20 here -- to realize that Peter is damn-near of grandad age and stuck in a fetal position of neediness. As Steve, Yu has some of the best lines of this Brodie translation trying to convince Evelyn that dope dealers can be businessmen, too.

Who gonna like : As noted above, Meghan Gardiner's take on Evelyn is note-perfect lit.& fig. Her jibe at cop-academy student Melissa about "What would you do if..." someone were just about to step over the line into criminality was absolutely heart-stopping eye-watery laughing gas stuff. Such a risible routine of comic timing and facial nuance is without equal. 

"Why is it you start with a totally normal topic and I always wind up feeling like a piece of shit?" Melissa whines. Because Evelyn is by far her better at chatterboxing -- there but for the lost bet that "won" Melissa husband Peter. 

This sold-out show will only have rush tickets for people who want to see it. But if you can cadge one by hook or by crook or a bit of artful arson, by all means do so. Can't think of more fun I've had in 80 minutes recently than this.

Particulars : Written by Catherine Leger. Translated by Leanna Brodie. Produced by Ruby Slippers Theatre in association with Gateway Theatre. At the Gateway Theatre, Richmond, Studio B. On until March 24, 2018.  Tickets and schedule information through Gateway Theatre or by phone at 604.270.1812 to see if any Sold Out! cancellations are available.

Production team :  Diane Brown, Director.  John Webber, Set & Lighting Designer.  Hannah Case, Costume Designer.  Michelle Cuttler, Sound Designer.  Heidi Wilkinson, Props Assistant.  Lois Dawson, Stage Manager.  Samantha Pawliuk, Apprentice Stage Manager.  Conor Moore, Technical Director.

Performance team :  Meghan Gardiner, Evelyn.  Agnes Tong, Melissa.  Curtis Tweedie, William.  Raugi Yu, Steve.


No comments:

Post a Comment