The Girl in the Frame plays out like a fantasy sequence inside a half hour television sitcom. Unfortunately this Jeremy Desmon penned musical stretches its premise to 95+ minutes.
Laney and Alex (Robyn Leigh Johnson and Joey Herbison) are in a bit of a rut. Thankfully though, through the magic of musical theatre, the two are drawn closer, realizing that true love does not live in their fantasies but with each other (cue the audience sigh). Getting to that realization though requires both a beautiful female picture frame model and a hunky male fireman calendar model that come to life to show them just how lucky they are.
Playwright Desmon leaves no fantasy cliché unturned as the two eidolons Evelyn and Tomas (Synthia Yusuf and Paul Almeida) play out Laney and Alex’s individual desires. There is little new here. The fantasies run the predictable gamut of a woman who just so happens to like baseball and cooking and a sensitive man who is just as comfortable shopping and getting a mani-pedi as he to show off his six-pack. Desmon even goes as far as to introduce the possibility of a lesbian relationship between Laney and Evelyn that Alex finds (surprise!) particularly titillating. Is this really what modern couples fantasize about?
Along with the predictability of its story, Desmon also leaves a gaping hole in his fantasy world that could easily see a dozen genies in bottles driven through it. For Evelyn to disappear all one needs to do is break the frame that she came in, but as Alex becomes more agitated over his fiancées relationship with her own fantasy he never reaches for the calendar that Tomas appears in, and unlike Evelyn who fought to protect her frame, Tomas makes no efforts to protect his own vessel. Without the possibility that either of the two fantasies could be shattered at any moment, there is little tension to sustain the already obvious story.
Despite the play’s shortcomings, the quartet of actors appear to be having a great deal of fun, but that only gets you so far. There was a definite unevenness in the singing opening night, coming at different points by various members of the cast. Musical director Wendy Boss Stuart doesn’t help at times as her piano playing became overpowering, especially when the actors were forced into their lower registers.
Where this foursome excelled though is in selling their characters. Herbison makes his Alex so darn likeable and goofy you (almost) forgive his childlike behaviour and Robyn, who also had the strongest voice of the night, is perfectly matched as the feisty Laney. Yusuf and Almeida have a delightful spring in their step each time they appear that even if they weren’t so gorgeous you would still have a hard time keeping your eyes off them.
Despite its likeable cast, they are unable to overcome The Girl in the Frame‘s banal story. I only wish the playwright had taken his own advice and hadn’t stopped writing mid-twirl.
Book, music and lyrics by Jeremy Desmon. Directed by Julie Tomaino. Musical direction by Wendy Bross Stuart. An Intimate Theatre Productions presentation. On stage at Studio 1398 on Granville Island through March 2, 2013. Visit http://intimatetheatreproductions.com for tickets and information.