Theatre review: Becky Shaw’s raw quirky characters make it compelling

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Mitch and Murray Productions likes to tackle edgy urban shows that shock and provoke with their richly conflicted characters; Becky Shaw is no different.

Mitch and Murray Productions likes to tackle edgy urban shows that shock and provoke with their richly conflicted characters; Becky Shaw is no different.

Becky Shaw opens with a needy and judgmental Suzanna, played with wide-eyed want by Meghan Gradiner, talking with the man who was raised like a brother, an emotional stunted and self-righteous Max (Aaron Craven), about her late father’s finances. She doesn’t want to talk with her forceful and grumpy mother (Marilyn Norry) because she has taken up with a much younger rent boy.

Mom has no sympathy for the grieving daughter [“A parent’s death is the most common of milestones”], and she bluntly refuses to believe Max when he tells her that her husband was having a homosexual affair with their accountant.

Fast forward six months and we discover Suzanna is now married to Andrew (Charlie Gallant) who Max dismisses as an “indy rock writer boy”. Andrew is a feminist, soft spoken sensitive man attracted to damaged emotional women which explains how he came to marry Suzanna. His new project is the title character, a broke, delicate woman too busy feeling sorry herself to have any future plans. As played by Moya O’Connell she is always on the verge of tears and she is so unsettled her feet barely touch the ground.  With Becky such an emotional mess, our married couple set her for a date with Max.

Mitch and Murray Productions likes to tackle edgy urban shows that shock and provoke with their richly conflicted characters; Becky Shaw is no different.

Mitch and Murray Productions likes to tackle edgy urban shows that shock and provoke with their richly conflicted characters; Becky Shaw is no different.

Crises and betrayal ensues and as the foursome start to unravel due to their selfishness and assumptions, Becky Shaw takes delicious and surprising turns, dropping in a number of shocking character reveals and provocative language along the way.

You can see why playwright Gina Gionfriddo was once a writer for Law & Order and other television shows. All of these characters are blind to their own flaws to the point of arrogance and they all have a transformational arc revealing new cruelty or kindness depending on who it would be most unexpected. As the story unfolds, and new revelations explode, you can almost sense the commercial breaks.

The actors are great at playing their layers and it is a testament to their depth and skill that we never find ourselves distracted by the audience members sitting across from us.

David Mackay directs with an eye for inner turmoil and an ear for a funky new wave 80’s soundtrack. He stages the play in the round, with seats pooled around the playing areas designed by David Roberts and brings the action so close that at one point an audience member found themselves quickly moving out of the way of an actor.

The script is not flawless with the compromise that Susanna and Andrew come to rather convenient and there are flashes of melodrama, but they are bumps in otherwise well rendered production.

Actors and people who like acting will find a lot here to enjoy and audiences who crave a raw visceral comedy drama will find it compelling.

Becky Shaw is a riveting, funny show about damaged nasty people. We were captured.

Becky Shaw

By Gina Gionfriddo.  Directed by David Mackay.  A Mitch and Murray Productions presentation.  On stage at Studio 16 through December 7, 2013.  Visit http://mitchandmurrayproductions.com for tickets and information.

David C JonesDavid C. Jones is an arts lover and a critical thinker. He makes films, directs plays, teaches, is a professional emcee and writes for the OUTtv website and The Charlebois Post.

Follow David on Twitter or visit him online at DavidCJones.ca.

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