By Rebecca Gilman. Directed by Sabrina Evertt. A Twenty-Something Theatre production at Studio 16 on Thursday, August 26. Continues until September 5
Twenty-Something Theatre performs an important function in Vancouver’s cultural ecology: it offers edgier scripts, including original works such as Sean Minogue’s Prodigals, and even in its name attempts to appeal to a younger demographic. Our city needs theatrical entrepreneurs like the company’s artistic director, Sabrina Evertt. I’m not sure that Vancouver really needs Rebecca Gilman’s Blue Surge, however, at least not as it’s presented in director Evertt’s interpretation.
Gilman’s script tells the story of a halting romance between Curt, a small-city cop, and Sandy, the 18-year-old sex worker he meets when he tries to bust the massage parlour where she works.
Refreshingly, Gilman acknowledges that class is a factor in North American society. Curt is engaged to an artist named Beth but feels more at ease with Sandy because they both come from the underclass, which Gilman evokes with near-Dickensian flourishes: Curt’s family home reeked of dog shit and his father was a grave robber.
The play’s exploration of class is both simplistic and sentimental, however. Sandy trots out the familiar—and legitimate—argument that prostitution makes sense economically when compared to minimum-wage employment, but the script doesn’t look seriously at the psychological toll of sex work. And Curt’s endless references to his mother, who seems to have been on death’s door for decades, get tiresome.
There are some nice performances from the supporting players in this production. Claire Lindsay brings a lively intelligence and subtle responsiveness to Beth. When Curt accuses Beth of not wanting to sleep at his place because it’s not good enough for her, Beth doesn’t speak, but you can see the guilt register on her face. Chris Rosamond, who plays Curt’s horny cop pal, Doug, and Tara Pratt, who takes the role of Doug’s girlfriend, Heather, deliver freewheeling characterizations of some charm. (These characters are blessedly free of the clunky self-reflection that hobbles Curt and Sandy.)
Jeremy Leroux and Megan McGeough have trouble in those central roles. McGeough’s Sandy hits some credible moments of emotional vulnerability, but her line delivery—I think she is aiming for understatement—is mind-numbingly flat and repetitive in its rhythms. And Leroux’s Curt is a mess of fidgety gestures and superficially indicated emotion.
The second act, which contains some conflict, is better than the first, but you’ve got to wait a long time to get there.