originally published December 2008

c2c theatre has been diligently working to establish itself as a producer of thought provoking scripts. Now in its fifth season they’re starting off with Montreal-born Francois Archambault’s The Leisure Society. This, the first of four in a basement series at the newly renovated Arts and Culture Centre, provided for a rollercoaster kick-start, directed by artistic associate Brad Hodder. Charlie Tomlinson importantly acknowledged that opening night was also the inaugural production in the refreshed space, thanking those involved for the investment and inviting the audience to share the traditional c2c opening night roasted turkey afterwards.

The Leisure Society

The Leisure Society

The four character show tackled everything from adoption to abortion and the difference between a threesome and an orgy. But despite the somewhat controversial subject matter of the events faced by Mary (Petrina Bromley) and Peter (Jonathan Watton) who are married and their ‘friend’ Mark (Aiden Flynn) who brings tag-along Paula (Jessica Power) for his visit, their mutual exposure makes its audience think. The dialogue of the show was engaging and Hodder’s direction combined with outstanding performances on all accounts kept it sharp. Bromley played a convincing drunk when her character’s taste for alcohol gets the better of her thanks to the box full of a dozen 26oz-er’s Mark brought with him. Power’s performance as his 21 year old “special” friend was breakout, believable and real – with her character becoming especially and surprisingly relative as the show unfolded.

The set design by Elyse Summers (5 Very Short New Plays In A Tub) was glossy and cosmo with canvas floor lights, a big furry rug with a leather top coffee table flanked by two leather benches on either side and a baby grand upstage centre. Hidden in the piano were packs of cigarettes and a flask, Peter and Mary’s hiding spots for their respective crutches. Both of which they helplessly try to fight, including the great debate of trying to smoke your last cigarette like your first when trying to quit.

Impossibly ignored, Mary and Peter have a birth child adding to mix of the evening crying constantly on a baby monitor, brilliantly added to the set and used. They are also in an adoption process and Mary’s pregnant considering abortion to protect the adoption procedure. All four evolved from being initially introduced through to the end. Mark who Peter and Mary plan to dump as a friend that night because of his wild ways and because they have nothing in common, eventually shows some disarming moments. Peter slowly seems to crumble becoming neurotic and irrational. The show’s devolution hovers around Peter’s fantasy of having a threesome. Mary ultimately decides that she is ready and suggests involving Mark – once they dump him, because then they won’t have to ever see him again. Problem was, Peter pictured the third party a woman. When Mark shows up with Paula drunken Mary asks to borrow her and the great debate ensues.

The scene transitions were particularly well executed in character, dropping to a dim light with an initial freeze then calm slow casual movement which continued to move the show forward. The soundtrack for the show was almost Charlie Brown styled piano and while subtle, fit perfectly. Notably well done transitions followed Mark and Paula butting heads and the very first with Mary and Peter having sex on the piano. The lighting after this transition scrupulously brought the audience back to the show leaving pause for post-sex satisfaction by back and top lighting both characters while they shared a cigarette before coming up fully once again.

The show was fast paced and crammed a lot into its almost 2 hour running time. The overall tone was almost that of a human drama film like The Shape of Things or Prime, just with way more punch. The show works towards getting to the things that matter, somehow amidst the jaw dropping shock comments, marital disputes and the unhappiness, confusion and boundless spontaneity. A shining start for the basement series which will next feature Paper Bags, Princesses, Puddles ‘n Pigs – Stories by Robert Munch, directed by Sandy Gow from December 11 – 21. c2c is covering all it’s bases with this will be one for the kids just in time for the holiday season, not to be missed!

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