Volume 95, Issue 74

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
 

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ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Winnipeg's Weakerthans wanna be your Valentine

Martina likes to get hands-on

Exaggerating extremes
Body fails to float in life's wake

Outside the Box

Cope debuts on top

Porn o' Plenty

Exaggerating extremes
Body fails to float in life's wake

The Deluxe Illustrated Body

Starring:
Travis Bailie, Jeff Culbert, Audrey Davenport, Lil Malinich, Carol Robinson-Todd, John Turner

Directed By: Jayson MacDonald

Two 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Ben Freedman
Gazette Staff


Life often seems like an exaggeration of extremes emotional, situational, psychological and so on. The defining feature of every existence is the eventual search for normalcy and stability.

The Deluxe Illustrated Body attempts to reflect on the psychological carnage in the wake of a lost life and, in doing so, straddles a line between sloppy manipulation and genuine emotional consciousness.

Kate (Audrey Davenport) and her sister, Marti Anderson (Lil Malinich), recently lost their parents and now struggle to retain their identities through tragedy and the ensuing charity.

There to help are the neighbours alcoholic anatomy teacher Nathan Gerrard (Travis Bailie) and his parents, the oppressed and scattered Ann Gerrard (Carol Robinson-Todd) and the insulated Thomas Gerrard (John Turner).

Finally, for spiritual guidance, there is the local Catholic priest, Father Matthew (Jeff Culbert). All are united in the opening scene with the funeral of Benjamin, Kate and Marti's father.

As the characters' lives become intertwined, love flourishes and reality becomes less oblique. Marti tries to serve as both sister and mother in the absence of her parents and is driven into the outstretched arms of Father Matthew, who in turn is forced to question his vow of celibacy.

Kate rejects her sister's pseudo-parenting and adopts a crush on Nathan. Meanwhile, Nathan's mother Ann discovers her son's drinking problem, an addiction he strongly denies.

The story is frequently interrupted by soliloquies from Nathan, defining the function of various internal organs. The intentions behind these small monologues are unclear and become little more than bothersome distractions indicative of the play's flaws.

Body aspires toward greatness, but reeks of exploitative pretensions and indiscrete emotional manipulation. Extended silences, where characters sit by themselves on the unlit stage, have an overly calming effect, but by the fourth tear-ridden, melodramatic epiphany, it all seems like a farce.

While brilliant scripts often draw the best material from their actors, terrible scripts have the opposite effect. The Body is no exception with the less-talented actors on the brink of humiliation and the truly gifted holding their own.

John Turner, a veteran of the London stage, was given a minor role for comic relief. His character remains underdeveloped, but his presence shines.

To her credit, Audrey Davenport produces when the script demands it and makes many scenes average when a lesser actor would have made them torturous.

As one ventures into the perilous London theatre community, you find plays that stink, plays that enlighten and plays that do both. The Deluxe Illustrated Body is an example of the last.

You have to be prepared to leave your cynicism and predisposition at the door, but maybe that too is one of life's lessons.



The Deluxe Illustrated Body plays at The Black Lodge Theatre (Galleria Mall) until Feb. 16. Reserve tickets by calling 673-0431.




To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department:
gazette.entertainment@uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 2002