by Lynn on February 28, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Assembly Theatre, 1479 Queen St. W.,  Toronto, Ont.

Written by Daniel Pagett

Directed by Anne Van Leeuwen

Set by Chris Bretecher

Lighting by Steve Vargo

Cast: Blue Bigwood-Mallin

Susannah Mackay

Who is the homewrecker and who is the innocent? If two people have an affair and one is married, who’s at fault? If a man is called an animal should he believe it? These are some of the provocative questions Daniel Pagett asks in his often compelling occasionally frustrating play.

 The Story. From the press release: “When a young woman (Veronica) arrives at a hotel room for an anonymous encounter with a stranger (Craig), she quickly discovers that the man waiting for her is someone she knows all too well. As secrets from their tumultuous past start spilling into the present, an alcohol-fueled battle of the sexes ensues, forcing the two former lovers to confront their deepest desires. …..Homewrecker challenges its audience’s perception of gender, status, relationships and the very nature of love itself.”

Craig has been accused by his estranged wife that he is an animal who gives into his deepest urges. For a time he believes it and that he has not been responsible for his actions. Veronica will definitely set him straight about that and other things. He makes her a proposition involving a lot of money, which she takes on. Who will win the bet?

 The Production. Chris Bretecher’s set of the hotel room, is neat, well appointed but nothing too expensive. This is where Craig (Blue Bigwood-Mallin)  is living since his wife got the house. If they haven’t gotten divorced they are definitely headed that way.  There are a few boxes with Craig’s name on them that indicate what’s inside. All you need are a few to let us know he’s had to clear out of his house. A take-out box of food is on the floor. Craig is hunkering down. When Veronica (Susannah Mackay) arrives, the sparks fly as do accusations and invective.

Because these two volatile, emotional people have been involved and are now estranged director Anne van Leeuwen has Blue Bigwood-Mallin as Craig and Susannah Mackay as Veronica almost always on the move, prowling, circle each other. As Craig tries to get close to Veronica, she avoids him. Alcohol and a mutual attraction work to bring them together as they try to keep their distance.  Both Blue Bigwood-Mallin as Craig and Susannah Mackay as Veronica are attractive, compelling actors. Bigwood-Mallin gives Craig a boyish quality and is rather insecure. He has been wounded in this separation from his wife and he’s hurting. While Veronica has also been wounded, Susannah Mackay as Veronica is very feisty, combative and wily. It’s later in this short play that we learn she has also been wounded. I like the nuance of the two performances and the care that van Leeuwen has taken so that her actors give the sense their characters are listening when they reply, not just reacting.

 Comment.  While I can appreciate that playwright Daniel Pagett wants to challenge “its audience’s perceptions on gender, status, relationships and the very nature of love itself” it hasn’t quite done it. Challenging the audience about relationships I will agree with, sure, but the audience’s perception of gender is not challenged with this obviously heterosexual couple. As for status, eh, I don’t think Pagett has made a strong enough argument about that. Little has been made of any status and since both characters hold their own, the status seems a moot point.

Because Craig is so navel-gazing about his wife’s perceptions of him as a person (she calls him an animal) truth to tell I’m not sure his idea of love will challenge an audience. The premise of why Craig has tricked Veronica to that hotel seems a stretch for this man. And while he confides to Veronica that he and his wife had been to all kinds of therapy to save their marriage, the conversation he’s having with Veronica should have taken place with his wife. If I’m thinking that, this poses a weakness in the play.

More concerning is that there are so many twists and turns in the revelations of the characters’ secrets that after time I stop wondering who is lying and who is telling the truth, and just believe they both are lying and ‘playing’ each other.

Every revelation seems to produce a hole in the story. Veronica tells Craig a bombshell of a revelation but I’m thinking, “Nope, the timing is wrong and how come you’re telling him now when you thought you were meeting a stranger for sex?”

That said, Pagett does have a good sense of language and a turn of phrase. I like his imagination (although I thought his last play, Cloud made no sense). His thinking about relationships, and certainly this one is intriguing. And while I have problems with the structure and cohesion of Homewrecker I do look forward to seeing more plays from Mr. Pagett.

Presented by Leroy Street Theatre, Coyote Collective and Scapegoat Collective present:

 Opened: Feb. 23, 2018.

Closes: March 10

Running Time: 55 minutes.

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