Like Modern Family on acid, Touchstone Theatre explores Brad Fraser’s near-psychedelic world of the nuclear family in True Love Lies currently on stage at The Cultch.
Kane and Carolyn have found what appears to be the perfect suburban dream: a thriving interior design business and two seemingly well-adjusted children. But like most suburban dreams the reality is sometimes more akin to a nightmare as we begin to learn about dad’s past. And the children? Well, there are some deep dark secrets that are far more frightening than who dad may have slept with some twenty years ago.
In Fraser’s unique style, scenes are served up like panels in a comic strip, containing just enough information to get us to the next point in the story. At times these panels come so fast and furious it is as much fun to watch the action in semi-darkness as actors clear and set for the next. It is perhaps not surprising given how much our modern social interaction revolves around food that it is used as the basis for much of the action on stage; whether in the family home or David’s restaurant everyone seems to be eating and drinking constantly. But given how hard these actors must work through the never-ending scene changes, I swear they also need the energy.
Greg Armstrong-Morris and Katharine Venour give nice performances as the husband and wife who find their perfect suburban world quickly unravelling as the past catches up with them, but it is Lara Gilchrist and more particularly Anton Lipovetsky as the children who give the best performances of the night.
Gilchrist easily finds the promiscuous Madison with an underlying innocence and Lipovetsky’s transformation as Royce from tormented teen to a poster child for the “It Gets Better” campaign is simply mesmerizing.
But while the two younger actors may give the best performances of the evening, it is Andrew McIlroy as the aging David that must take the biggest risk . In Fraser’s world the now straight Kane can make passing comment on his growing waistline, but for David in the gay world that is simply not possible. Lamenting how he has become overlooked since turning 40, David has used everything at his disposal to slow down time, including not a few medical procedures. As act two opens with his pants down around his knees, the real truth of age is revealed in full glory.
Like most television sitcoms, True Love Lies could have benefited from a laugh track as some of Fraser’s brilliantly acidic tongue flashes by in such rapid-fire moments, they are all but missed. But I also can’t help but think Fraser has the last laugh, as we fall prey to his tiny traps with inappropriate laughter.
Katrina Dunn directs with the precision of a Drill Sargeant, ensuring the unrelenting pace set from opening curtain continues to the end and special kudos must go out to those unsung heroes backstage, Marijka Brusse and Stacy Sherlock. Adrian Muir’s lighting and Michael Rinaldi’s sound designs move us through the multitude of scene changes and Drew Facey’s realistic set easily does double-duty as family home and David’s restaurant.
Despite its ferocious pace, it wasn’t until act two that True Love Lies fired completely on all cylinders. But when it did, it left me with no doubt: this is the real modern family.
By Brad Fraser. Directed by Katrina Dunn. A Touchstone Theatre production. On stage at The Cultch through Ocober 1, 2011. Visit http://www.thecultch.com for tickets and information.