Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Play With Monsters

A Killing Romance
by David C. Jones.
A lovely diverse cast filled with whimsy and heart – a sleek setting with imaginative staging including detailed mime – and hopefully romantic but sardonically laid back script – and zombies – and a ninja. You write what you know and most writers also tend to work out their demons in their work. Thankfully Aaron Bushkowsky is a highly skilled writer and he knows when not to belabour a point and allows his protagonists to be flawed and his antagonist(s) to be justified.
Drew (our protagonist) is a bit of a daydreamer but also a bit of a slacker  “Getting born was the best thing to ever happen to me” so that is unlikely to change. Mom wears fur and smokes, Dad is a  sommelier in a low-end restaurant.
They say things like “You went from being a disappointment to a complete failure” and “Dare to dream Drew.” They are hard on him because they want him to be successful. 
This is a surreal comedy that is also very meta.

As he grows up he meets a young woman named Lily, she is from Singapore and she is haunted by a Ninja – really her father - ready to strike her down at any wrong turn. That’s okay though; Drew’s parents are now Zombies who dog his every move. Darn that day-dreaming of his.
This is a surreal comedy that is also very meta. All the characters can break the fourth wall at any time. Playing With Monsters is about finding hope when you have almost given up. It is about love however unlikely.
The set by Shizuka Kai is forced perspective/ Anime / stark. The lighting by Itai Erdal is fun and clever. The production is simply slick but unique as well, from costumes to music. It looks and feels professional.
The actors are into it, Andrew McNee as Drew is warm and funny (again). What a treat to see Josette Jorge in this. She handles the comedy with aplomb – her response when awkward Drew tries to crack wise - the slight pause before “are you a comedian” is hysterical. She also finds depth in jokey lines like “I tried to be a success but my shoes are killing me”. Karin Konoval is in each moment and does not over-play her ‘bad mom’. Bill Dow makes Dad curious rather than introspective so he is active and alive and Hiro Kanagawa is sharply witty with some gravitas.
Director Rachel Peake stages everything with rich detail, from the cramped seats on an airplane to a rustic path in a vineyard in France. She also guides quiet truth and desire out of her actors.
This is not a great show. Mr. Bushkowsky has written better. It feels a little like a first draft. It meanders from moments of fun and playfulness to rambling remembrances like a 40-something drunken party boy without ambition. But as the 75-minute show heads toward its conclusion and as Lily and Drew try to break free of their parental monsters it is touching and cutely romantic. The party boy suddenly reveals something that is truthful and real and it makes you cry.
That integrity of intent in the story-telling is worthy. The actors are witty and appealing. Is that enough? Depends on your romantic bent.

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