Bad choices mar True Love Lies

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      By Brad Fraser. Directed by Katrina Dunn. A Touchstone Theatre production. In the Cultch Historic Theatre on Thursday, September 22. Continues until October 1

      It’s not often that you see a professional production that’s been so badly directed. Act 2 of Touchstone Theatre’s mounting of True Love Lies improves considerably, but Act 1 is a mess.

      In Brad Fraser’s witty script, 20-year-old Madison applies for a serving job at a restaurant, only to find that David, the owner, used to be her dad’s lover. The homo past of Kane, the dad, comes as a shock to Madison and her younger brother Royce. On the other hand, Carolyn, their mom, knows all about it, and, just to prove how grown-up she is, she invites David to dinner. David’s erotically charged presence does fissionable things to the nuclear family, especially when Madison gets the hots for him.

      The script’s not perfect. David is annoyingly instructive; as he delivers mini lectures about the advisability of strategic lying in relationships, it’s hard not to see him as Fraser’s mouthpiece. And the playwright has created so many scenes involving meals that the setting and clearing of plates can start to feel like the show’s raison d’être.

      Still, this is a very, very funny play. Royce's stunned response to the news about his father’s romantic past is, “You’re a fudgepacker?” And, when Madison expresses her guilt over a sexual dalliance, David advises, “That’s how we adults remember our mistakes.”

      But Dunn has badly miscast Andrew McIlroy as David and Greg Armstrong-Morris as Kane. For the show to work, David has to be a charismatically sophisticated top, but McIlroy delivers a limp-wristed portrait. And Armstrong-Morris’s Kane is so obviously gay it’s ridiculous to think that anyone would be surprised that he’s had sex with a man. The script takes pains to establish Kane’s sexual interest in his wife, but Dunn completely undermines that intention by having her actors play most of the sexual scenes between Kane and Carolyn as a hissing, growling parodies of lust.

      The biggest error, though, is the relentless pace in the first act. The lack of rhythmic variety flattens the comedy, and the speed and irritatingly perky tone make it impossible for the actors to establish the characters’ sophistication or the emotional depth of their relationships.

      Thankfully, things settle down in Act 2, but Dunn continues to make vulgar choices. In the script, Carolyn’s move toward greater independence is presented without glamour, but Dunn spins it with ill-placed uplift. And the director gives the play’s ambiguous ending a reductive resolution.

      Katharine Venour (Carolyn) and Lara Gilchrist (Madison) manage to slip in some resonantly honest moments, and Anton Lipovetsky, who plays Royce, continues to prove that he’s one of the most watchable young actors in town.

      Mostly though, this production, including Michael Rinaldi’s sound design, strains to be hip and fails.




      Sep 24, 2011 at 8:08am

      Thank-you Colin Thomas! Once again you have saved me from making a terrible mistake. When someone is trying to stretch their dollars it is difficult sometimes to know what choices will be best. Now I'll give this show a pass and go see The Light in the Pizza instead. Colin Thomas really is the only trustwothy critic in Vancouver!

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      Shawn Macdonald

      Oct 1, 2011 at 9:07am

      To my dear namesake Shawn,
      I do hope you read these few words of advice.
      Never and I mean NEVER let one person's opinion determine whether or not you'll see a show, even if it's a critic you tend to agree with. No one is always right, and you've just robbed yourself of the chance to see a very good show by a very important Canadian playwright. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Thomas whose job it is to go to shows and write down his personal opinion of them, but (and I'm sure he'd agree) to turn over your power to someone like that is a big mistake.
      Did you read the review in the Vancouver Sun? A completely opposite opinion. For me, when that happens with critics it's a sure sign that a show is worth seeing, that something interesting is going on.
      I saw the show last night and I'm so glad that I didn't allow my choices be dictated by one person's opinion. The show is very strong and is very well directed. See? A different opinion!
      I fear, Shawn, you'll lose out if all you do is slavishly allow one person's reaction to a show determine your theatre going choices. No one is right all the time.

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