True Love Lies

by Lynn on November 1, 2009

in Archive,Picks & Pans

Factory Theatre, until November 1.

Playwright Brad Fraser has been described as the “Bad-Boy of Canadian Theatre” for his provocative, challenging plays. He has also taken Canadian theatre to task for being too safe, and not dealing with bold subjects. Our theatre critic Lynn Slotkin has been following Brad Fraser’s career over the years and is here to tell us about his new play, TRUE LOVE LIES, which opened recently.

Hi Lynn, How so are Brad Fraser’s plays provocative and challenging?

They deal with sexuality, relationships — usually gay issues. In UNIDENTIFIED HUMAN REMAINS AND THE TRUE NATURE OF LOVE, it dealt with couplings and partings with a touch of serial killing to heighten the intensity of the play. In the past, Brad Fraser’s characters tended to be abrasive, in your face and took no prisoners. But with his last play—COLD MEAT PARTY and this latest one—TRUE LOVE LIES, I’ve also detected a shift and a wider view in his focus. Fraser’s characters still are forceful and direct but I’m noting a maturity in them, a generosity Of spirit, even an open-heartedness. Certainly in TRUE LOVE LIES.

What’s it about?

In TRUE LOVE LIES Fraser is looking at the modern family, love, compassion, consideration and the cost of honesty.

Kane and his wife Carolyn appear happily married With two children. Madison is their smarmy, independent, unemployed 21 year old daughter. Royce is their troubled teenaged son. But Kane and Carolyn have kept a secret from their children — before they were married, Kane had a relationship with David, now a successful restaurant owner. The secret is revealed when David returns to the city from New York, to open a restaurant and by coincidence Madison applies for a job there.

When David recognizes her name and Madison says that Kane is her father, David seems startled and doesn’t hire her. Madison tells her parents this and the truth comes out; in those days Kane was experimenting sexually. He’s not gay he says, echoed by Carolyn, but this sets in motion all sorts of upheaval in the family, and the revealing and concealing of secrets.

I think the title is a wonderful play on words and ideas. Does true love mean we lie about the truth to protect our loved ones, or ourselves? Is there a set of proper lies that comes with true love? I love that Brad Fraser gets me thinking about all that.

Talking about that generosity of spirit. That doesn’t mean that biting Brad Fraser is turning soft does it?

Nothing of the sort. He establishes the point and lets the audience make the judgement.

Is it possible for Kane to be a married gay man? Is it possible he was experimenting when he had a relationship with David and really is straight? What must Carolyn think about the reappearance of David?

Brad Fraser has written much of his dialogue lke a series of one-liners zinging threw the air. It’s almost like stand-up between characters. That got me thinking about why. But what they say is witty, wise — very, very funny, and when I least expected it, tremendously moving.

When a character says, “I don’t want to be discarded,” we can empathize. When Royce pleads: “make me not ugly,” we ache for that kid. I think what looks like flip dialogue Vs. wise thoughts plays up the seriousness of what Fraser is writing about.

Fraser does not end his play neatly with a happy bow at the end; He ends it properly, honestly.

Good material needs a good production. Do they get it here?

In spades. Fraser directs his own play—usually I frown on that… who will tell the writer to cut, who will tell the director to hold back? But this is a play with no fat or padding. Fraser has an exemplary cast. For all that rat-atat delivery you are never in doubt that this is a caring family. The parents fret about their kids and worry about when they aren’t home and it’s late.

And Kane and Carolyn adore each other passionately, especially as played by Ashley Wright as Kane and Julie Stewart as Carolyn—people might recognize her from THE BORDER. As David, David Keeley is strapping attractive conflicted and wise in an adult way. And he not above showing Royce the error of his ways with a little tough love. Brad Fraser had me engaged for all of it. He had me thinking about his choices of writing, about what characters said and why. He got me thinking about this huge subject of love, family, lying to protect loved ones and telling the truth for the same reasons.

Brad Fraser shakes us up again for all the right reasons. I love this play and the production. I can’t recommend TRUE LOVE LIES highly enough.

Thanks Lynn. That was Lynn Slotkin, Here and Now’s theatre critic. Lynn also publishes a theatre newsletter called THE SLOTKIN LETTER.

TRUE LOVE LIES plays at the Factory Theatre until November 1.