Robert Hewett’s one-act, multi-character exposé of human nature—brought to incredible life by Lucy Peacock and backed with the design team’s thoughtful, sassy and truly illuminating screen projections, back-lit dressing room and leave-the-key-props-as-memory on the set—is a tour de force on many levels that delights, occasionally enrages and nearly always engages anyone fortunate enough to find their way to the Studio Theatre.
Get ye to Stratford!
In a series of soliloquies (dogs offer comments; some of the “players” talk to themselves and unseen family or friends) Peacock portrays:
Rhonda (redhead) – recently dumped by her husband after seventeen-and-a-half years of incommunicative marriage
Alex (dirty blonde, nor pure enough to figure in the title) – MD and chief prescription-writer at the poor-side-of-town’s public health clinic; Dr. Dyke’s partner, Chrissie (blonde no. 1), dropped her spouse Sam (er, the male version) in favour of the more satisfying same-sex union; the pair have a daughter (Ellen)—Chrissie and Sam managed a son
Lynette (brunette) – Rhonda’s best friend, next-door neighbour and unrepentant fuck buddy of Graham—Rhonda’s silent hubby
Matthew – the special-needs child of Chrissie/Sam whose best friend is a tailless lizard, which is kept in a box until the cremation scene …
Graham – the chance to play her shallow, philandering partner-in-name-only is savoured by actor and playwright alike
Mrs. Carlyle – grandma to Matthew and Ellen, she’s set in her ways and brimming full of sage truths (e.g., “You can’t put a time limit on grief”) that only the elderly can espouse
Tanya (blonde—in every sense of the bimbo stereotype—no.2) – the alluring Russian who lets Graham’s wandering tongue down her throat but drops him abruptly after she learns that Rhonda’s a killer so fears that her “moose man” will somehow inherit his ex-wife’s penchant for deadly revenge.
Bringing the above cast list to life in the space of two hours is the mighty challenge posed by Hewett. Peacock is more than up to that formidable task, slipping in and out of personas and costumes as easily as politicians change their stripes (but with far more style).
Curiously, it’s the males who come off best. Her depiction of Matthew’s denial of his mother’s death (this blonde was inadvertently offed in a dreadful life-altering instance of mistaken identity) is riveting. His/her howls of gut-wrenching pain, waiting in vain for the return of his brain-injured mom will stick in chilling memory for a long time to come.
As the lecherous, selfish, rationalizationist extraordinaire (like former President Clinton, blow jobs don’t count as sex or infidelity), Graham, Peacock excels in tone, look (kudos to the magicians of wardrobe, makeup and wigs) making her a prime candidate for Drag King of the Year.
The women are also good, with a wide array of mannerisms (shaky old hands, hair fidgeting when nervous) that add extra depth to the characterizations.
Inadvertent “glue” to other items on this season’s playbill comes in many forms: Ellen’s wisdom even in her literal blindness conjures up the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear who only sees the treachery surrounding him when his eyes are ripped from their sockets; Grandma Carlye’s lame arm beats a path to Tom Robinson’s useless limb in To Kill a Mockingbird. But nothing can top Lynette’s modern day example of the harmonic mantra “I Cain’t Say No” that seemed so hilarious when sung by her stage sister Ado Annie in Oklahoma!
The several transitions from place to place are a delight to the eye with panel clips that bring smiles (the portrait of Tanya’s mother is a marvel, the three-hole urinal instantly takes us to a man’s world) and continuity. The subtle piano (Stephen Woodjetts, also the composer) and Ian Harper’s oily clarinet add another layer of aural reinforcement to the tableaus. A fantastic payoff to the circling of the props comes in the final frames as, through vanishing light and single notes, all of the characters disappear.
Yet beyond all of the wonderful delivery, it’s the script that brings so much incredible insight into play. As the characters recount the same incidents, it’s easy to understand why the truth about anything is so hard to know. Hewett also tries to leave his audience with some hope for decency after laying bare the willful blindness of the principals, which creates such catastrophic, preventable, tragedies.
But even the apparent forgiveness of a suddenly motherless child (Ellen) to a scorned, incarcerated naïve-is-me Rhonda (who, in jail for a dozen years, measures everything in days) is only revealed through one set of eyes.
Let’s hope Hewett finds the further inspiration to take this disparate collection of humanity through another cycle of life, and that Peacock’s ready for an encore. Or what’s a sequel for? JWR