ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Breakbeating down the house
Orange County ripe with humour
Six degrees of Nurse Jane
Six degrees of Nurse Jane
Grand play puts soap operas to shame
Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii
Starring: Gay Hauser, Terrence Bryant, Alison Lawrence
Directed By: David Oiye
Four stars (out of five)
By Molly Duignan
There are moments when the phrase "it's a small world" truly applies to the complexities of human relationships. In Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii, the world of the seven characters is very, very small and the ties that make it so are hilarious.
First, let's get one thing straight Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii is not about a nurse named Jane and she does not go to Hawaii. Instead, Nurse Jane is a hilarious portrait of absurd relationships, framed by a tacky romance novel.
The curtain opens to a simple, 1970s sitcom set a living room straight out of The Brady Bunch, with six doors and moveable furniture. The use of the un-changing set is surprising most large living rooms will never see the kind of action that the house at 16 The Bridal Path sees in two hours.
Despite the normalcy of the set and its apparent domestic serenity, Nurse Jane is pleasantly unconventional and entirely not what it seems. From extra-marital affairs to erroneous paternity assumptions and crucially-timed choreography, Nurse Jane puts contemporary soap operas to shame.
Vivien Bliss (Alison Lawrence) is the annoyingly sweet and utterly clueless "novelist," late for a deadline on her next romance novel. A 33-year-old virgin, Vivien is in constant search of a muse, equating her own life to the adventures of her central character, Nurse Jane.
Portable recorder slung over her shoulder, Vivien is the commentator throughout the play, tying the constant action of the plot into her next novel's cliché-soaked pages.
Doris Chisholm (Gay Hauser) is an advice columnist, frequently away from home. Her husband Edgar (Terrence Bryant) is a mouse-ish geography teacher, taking advantage of his wife's absence by picking up na•ve blondes from his ceramics class.
Betty "Zelda" Scant (Jillian Cook) is Vivien's neurotic and cold editor; Bill (Brian Sexsmith) is a distraught, advice-seeking stranger; Peter Prior (Glen Sheppard) is just an orphan in search of his real parents and the United Church Observer reporter Peggy (Diana Donnelly) is simply on an assignment.
How these seven people are connected, how the heck Vivien Bliss becomes involved with them and what at all a book called Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii has to do with any of this creates the complex plot behind this comedy. The secrets that make the play more than just six degrees of separation create chaos in this well-written comedy by Allan Stratton.
With Nurse Jane's sharp and witty dialogue, insults and comebacks are delivered with extraordinary realism. Surprises lurk behind every door and the plot is entirely forward-moving and well-developed.
At times, however, there is so much going on within the storylines that jokes are lost in the action.
Although the punchlines tend toward an older audience, the slapstick humour of the dialogue and chemistry between characters is appealing to all audiences. Every actor is splendid in their parts, with hilarious performances by Glen Sheppard as Peter Prior and Jillian Cook as the wickedly crass Betty Scant.
In the end, some of the ties that bind Nurse Jane's characters remain knotted, while others are severed and the rest end up in bows. Whatever the case, Nurse Jane will restore or create strong ties to comedic theatre.
Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii plays until Jan. 27 at the Grand Theatre. Call the box office at 672-8800 for ticket info.