It seems that the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company has found a very successful franchise – one-woman shows. Last season they gave us The Syringa Tree and in the year before we were not only treated to the first performances of The Syringa Tree but also, I Am My Own Wife.
This season, the Playhouse serves up another multi-character, one-woman show – The Blonde, The Brunette and The Vengeful Redhead. A dreadful title for a play to be sure but fortunately for the audience, the dreadful title does not translate into a dreadful play.
Starring Stratford maven, Lucy Peacock, The Blonde…, by Australian playwright Robert Hewett, examines the fateful events of a single day from seven different perspectives. And just in case I haven’t stated it well enough, let me repeat, all the characters (seven here) are played by Peacock.
Surprised by her husband Graham’s departure after 17+ years (by phone, no less), suburban housewife Rhonda Russell confronts who she thinks is the woman who precipitated his departure and a physical altercation escalates with fatal results. Through the rest of the show we see how the various characters connect to each other and are offered their own versions of the truth about what happened.
Peacock has performed this role now for a couple of years at the Stratford Festival (to wide acclaim and sold-out houses) so it is not surprising that she handles the various characters’ monologues with such aplomb. Even in some of the weaker moments of the play, such as the mercifully short appearance of four-and-a-half year old Matthew, Peacock still manages to imbibe a unique character into each of the seven people she portrays. Ms Peacock really shines in her portrayals of Lynette, the brunette next door and as Rhonda’s husband, Graham.
Lucy Peacock as the Blonde, the Brunette and the Redhead. Photo: David Cooper
My initial reaction to Peacock changing into her next character behind a lighted screen was that it was a bit contrived, but as she transformed from one character to another it was actually fun to guess which character would appear next. The use of slide projections to show location and transition, however, was distracting and unnecessary.
The Blonde… continues what is quickly becoming a grand tradition for the Playhouse: showcasing some of Canada’s great female stage actors. The standing ovation for Ms Peacock on opening night was definitely deserved, even from Vancouver’s ovation-happy theatre-goers, but more for her skill as an actor than for the play itself.