Theatre review: Blowing Whistles has enough going for it above the waist too

There is little doubt Landmark Productions will fill the PAL Theatre for Blowing Whistles with its promise of full frontal nudity, fortunately there is enough going on above the waist in this Matthew Todd play for those that don’t just think with their dick.

Jamie and Nigel are celebrating their tenth anniversary.  While modern etiquette would dictate diamond jewellery as the proper gift to mark the decade, the two decide to celebrate theirs with a threesome.  While adding a third is nothing new to their relationship, their latest trick, 17-year old Mark, is interested in more than just a one night stand, forcing the couple to evaluate their life together.

Playwright Todd begins Blowing Whistles as a very funny and sexy, but otherwise unsurprising, gay sex comedy that culminates with a nude scene.  What is surprising though is the almost 180 turn Todd takes after the first scene into more serious territory and holds a mirror to our community’s obsession with age, sex, and commitment.

Shane Bingham, the only member of this cast that identifies as gay, brings the truest performance of the night as a slightly campy Jamie, easily moving from the funny to the more serious.  Taking his Jamie to the brink of stereotype, he manages to balance him perfectly on the edge.  Bingham is buoyantly hilarious in the first scene but is just as comfortable with drama as he watches his relationship implode.

Michael Lyons and Shane Bingham in the Landmark Productions presentation of Blowing Whistles.  Photo by Jessica Oostergo.
Michael Lyons and Shane Bingham in the Landmark Productions presentation of Blowing Whistles.  Photo by Jessica Oostergo.

Michael Lyons brings a believable immaturity to Nigel, although at times it did border on whining. Furrowed brow aside, his obsession with where his next hook-up will come from, even as he tries to tell Jamie he can change, sees his eyes never seem to wonder too far from the computer that hails another potential sex partner.

Cameron Crosby has the toughest role of the night as the other man.  Full of his own baggage, playwright Todd could have spent more time here.  Absolutely fearless in willing to bare it all for his craft, Crosby is a perfect balance of aloof and needy.

Under Morgan David Jones’ direction, the cast is confident in its comedy and carefully treads a fine line for much of act two.  While they dip their toes into the shallow pool of melodrama as Jamie and Nigel fight late in act two, it is mercifully brief.

Jessica Oostergo gives us a realistic Kitsilano apartment which is lit with an equally realistic warm summer glow.  Oddly though, in two of the more serious scenes director Jones makes the decision to move to more dramatic lighting.

Interestingly, the online hook-up site GuySpy (changed from the original Gaydar along with a number of other local references) plays a major part in the downfall of this relationship.  Curiously, this recent entry into the sex-on-demand arena is a sponsor.  I guess the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity remains true.

Along with all that is happening over at the Queer Arts Festival, Blowing Whistles is a great alternative for those looking for something more than just another party during Pride.  It might even make you question just what we have to be proud about.

3 1/2 of 5 Stars Blowing Whistles

By Matthew Todd.  Directed by Morgan David Jones.  A Landmark Productions Vancouver presentation.  On stage at the PAL Theatre through August 4, 2012.  Visit http://www.lpvancouver.com for tickets and information.

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