Brandon McGibbon, Grace Lynn Kung and Mike Ross (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
by Gregory Bunker
Soulpepper’s La Ronde is a not-quite-convincing cobbling together of Torontonians’ sex lives. The original Arthur Schnitzler play was scandalous in its day for its display of sexual relationships across the rigid class lines of late 19th century Germany. Jason Sherman’s modern-day adaptation is downright wholesome in comparison. Set downtown, we are in a different place and time—especially for conversations of a sexual nature—and a uniquely Torontonian update should not only show us how times have changed but also expose us to how times are changing. It was, after all, the cultural context of the original play that made it so deliciously dirty at the time. Here, Schnitzler’s template of crossing class structure with socio-sexual edgeplay seems difficult to transpose onto the cultural milieu of sexual Toronto.
Still, brazen exposure is what this play is all about, and in the literal sense, it delivers.
In execution, the play is excellent. The acting is superb, with Brenda Robbins (Eve) and Maev Beaty (Isobel) as particular standouts. Given some of the awkward plotlines, the only truly confusing moment was interpreting what “polishing the silver” meant. (I think it meant polishing the silver.) The music and sound effects are spot-on if a little loud (Thomas Ryder Payne), and Lorenzo Savoini provides a flexible set that seamlessly incorporates video—a rare feat, and something that the story could have benefitted from more.
Two-and-a-half hours with one 20-minute intermission.