Theatre review: Alice and Henry: Into the Wild – its predictability is softened by the performances

Michele Riml may have traded the Egyptian cotton sheets of her Sexy Laundry for the sleeping bags in Alice and Henry: Into The Wild, but she fails to break any new ground with this sequel.  Fortunately the cast of this Arts Club production breathes enough life into her characters that I still found myself rooting for them in the end.

When we last saw Alice and Henry Lane they were trying to rekindle a spark in their marriage.  Ten years later they are still looking for that spark, but now have the added problem of Henry having recently lost his job.  The swanky hotel is now a provincial campground and their copy of “Sex For Dummies” has been replaced by “Camping For Dummies”.

If it all sounds a bit familiar, it is.  Talk of sex may have been replaced by talk of money, but Riml has very little new to say here.  Henry is still emotionally distant and continues to be defined by his work (or lack thereof) and though Alice is still full of bravado, she continues to retreat as she reaches the precipice of change.

Helping to shake things up a bit though is the addition of Alice’s sister Diana who decides to drop in unexpectedly.  Diana is the antithesis of Alice, with a huge ‘carpe diem’ tattoo across her chest, she wanders through life sponging off dear old dad and looking for that next adventure.

Beverley Elliott, Andrew Wheeler, and Susinn McFarlen in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Henry and Alice: Into the Wild. Photo by Emily Cooper.
The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Henry and Alice: Into the Wild. Photo by Emily Cooper.

While the addition of a third character added a fresh dynamic, there are still little few surprises; in Sexy Laundry Riml gave us the suggestion that Henry and Alice might divorce and here she does the same thing with the possibility of Alice following her sister to Africa but we never actually take either of those threats seriously.

Riml does try to add a new dimension by introducing two dream-like sequences for Alice.  The first, intertwined with a ghost story that Henry tells around the campfire, falls a little flat but her turn aboard her sister’s motorcycle was a great deal of fun.

As was the case in Sexy Laundry it is up to the actors to rise above the predictability and stereotypes of their characters to bring these characters to life.  Fortunately director Andrew McIlroy, who also directed the original Arts Club production of Sexy Laundry, has found it with this cast.   Reprising her role from Sexy Laundry, Susinn McFarlen is at ease in Alice’s skin (at one point quite literally) and Andrew Wheeler gives us a believable Henry with many shiny moments just below his gruff exterior.  As the third wheel, Beverley Elliott is brashly confident but she too manages a vulnerability that made Diana real.

As with its predecessor, the predictability in Alice and Henry: Into The Wild is offset by some terrific performances, but if we are to believe Riml that this will be the couple’s final outing, it feels like the right decision.

3 Out of 5 Stars Henry and Alice: Into The Wild

By Michele Riml.  Directed by Andrew McIlroy.  An Arts Club Theatre Company production.  On stage at the Granville Island Stage through May 26, 2012.  Visit http://www.artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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