Vancouver’s indie theatre company Hardline Productions attempts another punch-to-the-gut with its latest offering Bash: Latter-Day Plays. But while the group still manages a few blows that land solidly in this latest work, it is the re-write from director Mack Gordon that landed the knock-out.
Originally written as three separate one acts, director Mack Gordon has decided to present the three shorts in a single 80 minutes, interlacing playwright Neil Labute’s three stories of everyday evil. While powerful on their own, the crescendo that was created as the three stories played out together was proof once again that this young company is willing to take risks. It was perhaps even more fitting for Gordon to take that risk knowing that playwright Labute is no stranger to risk himself, having been kicked out of the Mormon Church after writing this trio.
The four actors taking on the challenge, Cameron Anderson, Genevieve Fleming, Caitlin McCarthy and John Voth, do so with huge conviction, gradually peeling back each of their characters to reveal the horror that lies beneath.
John Voth as Man, gives us the best performance of the evening, providing the most ordinary accounting of his fear of losing his job as part of the latest corporate downsizing. When he is called upon to reveal his horrible secret he maintains that banal attitude, making his revelation even more shocking.
Anderson and McCarthy give us two fun-loving college students recounting together, but in separate monologues, their trip to Manhattan for a party. Everything about them is cute and perfect as they revel in the triteness of their excursion into the city. When it’s Anderson’s turn to reveal his truth it is done with a similar banality to Voth, but with a wisp of something more struggling to the surface.
In the final monologue, Fleming slowly unravels as she talks about her affair with a Junior High School teacher. While we’re perhaps not quite as surprised at her ultimate revelation given the location of her confession, I was riveted by Fleming’s ability to easily move from the mundane to the gruesome as if she was changing shirts.
It did take a few minutes for each of the actors to fall comfortably into their characters but when they did they hit most every note. At times they felt rushed, but that too seemed to even out over time.
As you may tell I have been particularly guarded in this review as to the nature of the dark secrets revealed. While Labute gives clues with the titles for his three shorts, if you’re not familiar with the references I would recommend waiting to read the playbill after the show. Labute also gives other tiny clues in the show that hint towards those secrets – listen for them.
Another winner for Hardline Productions, I’m pretty sure it will take me a little while to heal from this one.
By Neil Labute. Directed by Mack Gordon. A Hardline Productions presentation. On stage at the Hardline Studio through July 10, 2011. Visit http://www.hardlineproductions.ca for more information.