Optimistically Cautious

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Theatre: "Sexy Laundry"

I met up with Annie on Saturday afternoon to watch Shadow Theatre's Sexy Laundry at the Varscona Theatre. From the website:

"Armed with a copy of Sex for Dummies, Alice and Henry check into a trendy hotel with a mission to jumpstart their 25-year marriage. Time has taken its toll; kids, stress, and gravity have all had a detrimental effect. This once-loving couple has hit their fifties and the marriage blahs. Will Alice and Henry survive the test of their relationship...or even this weekend?"

I became especially interested in seeing the play after reading a pre-production interview in Vue Weekly with Coralie Cairns, who said, in regards to one of the themes of the play, "Any time you know someone well enough, you almost just stop listening to them, and start looking for the markers, hearing what they say without actually listening to what it is they’re saying."

Yes, this issue was addressed, but perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of this play was the fact that it tried to tackle too many issues, including, among others, self-image, career, work/family balance, fantasies, aging, and of course, the meaning of marriage. As a result, the play felt scattered, unfocused, and like a wrought emotional rollercoaster. More than Dinner with Friends, I was exhausted by what seemed like two hours of straight yelling. While everything felt very realistic - the dialogue, communication, and the actors' familiarity with one another - I can't say that it was enjoyable to watch two people go from rational to frustrated to tender without any time for the viewer to reflect on what was said (there was no intermission in this production either). Though I tried to empathize, I found that I couldn't relate to what the characters were going through, and thus, couldn't bring myself to the point where I was invested in the outcome of their weekend. Essentially, watching this couple air their dirty laundry got tiresome.

As for the acting - Cairns was fabulous, and really brave. The end scene had her in fishnets, hooker boots, a leather mini and a stomach-bearing leather print top. It was a necessary costume, to visually demonstrate her desperation and vulnerability at that point, but I'm sure not every actress would be so willing to display her flaws. Glen Nelson did a good job in the role of Henry as well, the proud and sarcastic family man. However, I did find his character's tendency to interrupt conversational flow jilting and rather annoying.

The set was surprisingly sleek and polished, and unusually sophisticated for the Varscona stage. Designer Trevor Schmidt made good use of circular pieces (linking to Henry's last metaphor of 'coming home') – with the bed, table, lighting, and of course, three large mirrors, hung so that they provided a visual reminder that the audience was literally reflected on stage.

Though I may not have enjoyed the play as much as I thought I would, Annie liked it. I'm sure she's well on her way to becoming a full-fledged theatre convert.



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