Cold Comfort should give you shivers, but last night it only barely registered on the creep factor.
Floyd and his 15-year old daughter Delores live an odd life together in an abandoned gas station just off the Trans-Canada in Saskatchewan. One night during a particularly bad winter storm they rescue Stephen, a traveling salesman, after his car goes off the road. Reviving him with hot whiskey, Stephen quickly realizes that there is indeed something odd about the family but allows his dick to make decisions for him that could ultimately cost him his life.
Playwright Jim Garrard very quickly insists that we suspend belief well beyond what is already required from a stage play. Like the horror movie characters that venture into the dark basement as if they themselves have never seen a horror movie, it’s hard to fathom why Stephen wouldn’t have bolted at the first opportunity. Of course that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story.
Garrard does try to give Stephen a reason to stay by offering up the possibility of a sexual encounter with Delores, but even when the two end up having sex, much like the father/daughter relationship that should similarly make our skin crawl, the accompanying creepiness never quite materializes. Sure, we all know it is wrong, but knowing something is wrong in our heads and actually feeling it in our guts is completely different; I wanted a gut punch. Similarly, as Stephen’s fate becomes clear we neither feel sorry for him nor cheer for the circumstance he finds himself.
Despite the lack of the creep factor and an inability to take sides in this twisted story, there are a couple of nice performances here. Katey Hoffman gives a wonderful portrayal of the young woman who is caught in the bewildering world created by her father. At times fearless (in one scene Hoffman strips down to take a rather unusual bath), she is like a small animal darting in and out to test the hands held out to feed her. Patrick Keating is steadfast in his role of the father and goes for the tough sell of his character’s madness without hinting at any type of façade; he is simply who he is.
Chris Cochrane doesn’t fare quite so well, but that may very well be director Kevin Bennett’s fault as Cochrane plays his Stephen frustratingly similar to Keating’s portrayal of the father. While it may have been a conscious decision to simply present these two men without any internal moral conflict, it does result in a lack of variety. Cochrane may have attempted to hint at some conflicted emotions during the bath scene, but it was all but lost given our seat location within the configuration of Christopher David Gauthier’s realistically gritty set, forcing the focus on Hoffman’s performance.
A few technical issues hampered opening night including the opening scene of act two that telegraphed what was happening before the lights came up. Ryan McCallion does some great work with his sound design.
In a show that could just as easily be subtitled “little psychos on the prairie”, Cold Comfort could benefit more from a David Lynch sensibility than that of Stephen King or James Wan.
By Jim Garrard. Directed by Kevin Bennett. A Yogurt Theatre Co production. On stage at the Havana Theatre through February 9, 2013. Visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com for tickets and information.