If there was ever any doubt that Jason Cadieux is one of Niagara’s most courageous, talented actors, it was put to bed with his no-holds-barred (and one bared) playing “Man” in Sky Gilbert’s multifaceted probe into cracks of all sorts, sizes and persuasions.
Was Niagara ready for a play with the tagline “What’s your addiction?”
In true Canadian style, the answer is yes and no.
The opening night audience was a mixture of general theatregoers and loyal supporters of ECT. Curiously, the further back the audience was (we sat in the middle) from the single-set stage (a seedy bar in Anytown Canada—Moosehead beer a nice touch of detail), the giddier they became, with the back row howling at unfunny lines (er, perhaps it was the subject matter—ranging from drug, child and elder abuse through abhorrence of a semi-out man receiving a female blowjob to bum fucking—that drew the uncomfortable guffaws) to prove out loud that they were OK with “it” no matter what it was.
Those closer to the action (on every plane) were treated to a “tour d’arse” that must have delighted playwright/director Sky Gilbert on all fronts. Cadieux’s sense of style and emotional range has been long established. Here, with roughly 80% of the performance an extended soliloquy, his body-language skills were also deftly employed (notably the face—especially the fearless penetration of the eyes), giving the witty, wily, worrisome lines an extra assist in driving their meaning home, even as the pace followed suit with deceptive ease. The only slow moment came right off the top, during the wordless “overture” that went on longer than might have been wise to draw the crowd into the realm of revelations to come.
Stephanie Jones’ appearances as Woman, Aunt Minnie and Delilah were the epitome of balance and bravado. All that was missing was a crack of her whip: perhaps in the next installment ….
Man: So it’s like God made a mistake and put a hole in us, a dirty smelly hole—but it’s like a hole we really need.
Woman: I sure need mine.
That’s an exchange that defines the old adage: You had to be there. From the mouths of Cadieux/Jones, the tenor, tone and timing were a resounding triumph—you’d think those words had been written for them, which, of course, they were. Because Gilbert has worked with these actors on several occasions, like a composer creating a concerto for a specific performer, he’s “heard” the result in mind’s eye, knowing just how he might expect it to be done. On the actor side of that equation, past shared-experience has created the magic of artistic trust that’s banished any qualms about delving shamelessly into such gritty fare.
Being in the room with this level of professionalism, honesty and biting humour is why live theatre can be so engaging and exhilarating. Beyond the chuckles and body-function show-and-tell, the underlying messages about the constant companions of addiction and despair are carefully presented and ready to begin the post-show conversations for those who choose to hear them. JWR