Theatre review: The Last Piece – romcom through a lesbian lens

If The Last Piece was a Katherine Heigl movie I’d say wait until it appears on television.  But thanks to a terrific performance from Tara Pratt, this romantic comedy is elevated beyond the ordinary.

Meeting at a local bookstore, Kate (Pratt) makes a move on Lee (Joanna Gaskell) faster than two lesbians can say “let’s move in together”.  Realizing that Lee wants more than a one-night stand, Kate initially pushes away citing a recent messy break-up.  As the afternoon wears on however, a connection is made over a few books and a puzzle.

There is a natural ease about Pratt that makes her believable as Kate, even as she finds herself on the couch pouring her heart out to this woman that she just met.  This is no easy feat considering there is so little sexual tension between the two that when she makes her move on Lee it comes as a complete surprise.  Though Pratt seems more comfortable, Gaskell has some nice moments too but is ultimately hampered by Jacqueline Korb’s script which relegates her largely to the role of therapist, forced to listen as Lee deals with her break-up on her sofa.

Tara Pratt and Joana Gaskell in the Little Basket Theatre Company production of The Last Piece.
Tara Pratt and Joana Gaskell in the Little Basket Theatre Company production of The Last Piece.

The Last Piece never reaches very deep, is wrought with clichés, a few laugh-out-loud funny moments and a Hollywood feel-good ending, just like the thousands of romantic comedies before it.  But playwright Korb admits she is not out to change the world with her new play.  Instead she prefers to look at the romcom genre through a lesbian lens where an afternoon delight has the potential to turn into so much more.  Going in with the same expectation helps a lot.

Patrick O’Doherty’s sound and lighting does little in the way of setting any particular mood and if any venue calls out for atmosphere it is the drab Havana theatre space.  Under Korb’s direction there are some very large moments that scream for some music.  Even the infrequent transitions could benefit from something more.

If you go, and I say give it a chance for Pratt’s performance alone, imagine my alternate ending:  Kate sits at the table to read, fade to black except for a small pinpoint light on a puzzle piece lying on the arm of the sofa.  Put that in your ugly bridesmaid dress and smoke it Heigl!

3 Out of 5 stars The Last Piece

Written and directed by Jacqueline Korb.  A Little Basket Theatre Company presentation.  On stage at the Havana Theatre through December 17, 2011.  Tickets at the door.  Visit http://www.littlebasketheatre.com for more information.

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