Have you ever played one of those murder mystery party games? You know the ones where each of your guests becomes a character and you have to figure out who the murderer is? Well, Party This Weekend is just like that. Only there is no murder. Or perhaps there is, since we only get to see a small part of what’s going on in this new site specific theatre from Scarlet Satin Productions.
Actually, seeing only a small part of what’s going on is a bit misleading. You can get the full story, and maybe find out if there is a murder, if you go back to see the show four times to see each of the storylines that are happening simultaneously. While each story intersects at least once during the evening, these interactions are so fleeting that it is impossible to get any real feel for what is actually taking place in the rest of the house or characters. And this was the show’s biggest weakness and its biggest strength.
We joined the Vivian (Maggie Ma) group the evening we attended. Just out of school and not sure how she fits in, Vivien arrives at the party supposedly invited by her friend Carmindy (Emma Middleton). Vivien’s almost exact opposite, Carmindy is street-wise and from what we can tell very, very promiscuous. From the start Carmindy tells us to not get too attached as she won’t be around for very long. And she isn’t lying. We see Carmindy a couple more times through the evening, usually sucking face or talking about sex with and about her boyfriend Fish (Jon Hollis-Franks). But like most of the other characters, Carmindy never stays long, quickly moving onto one of the other four stories and, we can only assume, more face sucking.
Ma does a decent job with her Vivien but I must admit to at one point being tempted to tell her to go use the washroom as her nervousness translated into what looked like a real need to pee, shifting back and forth uncomfortably. Mostly scripted, Ma and the other actors that she interacts do a nice job with the sometimes witty words created for them in this storyline by Taylor Basso, but the improvisation that is virtually guaranteed by such a premise is rarely authentic and in one instance quite disastrous. At one point Vivien employs the pizza delivery boy (Owen Kwong) to help snare another guy at the party. As we entered the enclosed patio and jockeyed for position to watch the action, Kwong broke character to tell me I was standing in his spot.
Playwright Basso starts strong and I actually found myself laughing out loud at some of the clever things coming from his characters, but it soon devolves into just plain silliness and I grew bored with Vivien after about 60 minutes. If I were at a real party I would have abandoned her long before that time. I suppose that is like real life, but unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of moving about the house at will, checking out what else is going on. As Vivien parades us through the small house, sometimes even having us link arms so we don’t fall behind, we hear and see small snippets of the other stories as we pass. I found myself wondering what the other groups were doing. What were their characters talking about? What was the singing all about? Why was that man under the table? Were they having more fun than our group? I felt cheated.
While definitely a unique attempt at pushing theatrical boundaries, the real litmus test comes, I suppose, in the answer to whether I’d venture back to experience one of the other three storylines. Let’s just say I’ll never know who the murderer is. But then again, I was never really big on house parties anyway.
Party This Weekend
Written by Diana Squires, Taylor Basso, Josephine Mitchell and Arlen Kristian Tom. Directed by Laura McLean. A Scarlet Satin Produtions presentation. On stage at a private residence at 3079 Copley Street through August 27, 2011 (Friday & Saturdays only). Visit http://www.partythisweekend.ca for more information.