Radio text review: OVERRULED and ROMANCE

by Lynn on March 29, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, March 29, 2013. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM. OVERRULED and ROMANCE at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East near Logan until April 6. Produced by Neoteny Theater.

The host was Phil Taylor. The podcast should be up in a day or two.

(PHIL)1) Good Friday morning. At CIUT FRIDAY MORNING we never take a holiday, not even on Good Friday. Which means that Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer, is here to talk theatre.

Hi Lynn, what have you seen that you want to talk about?

Hi Phil. I saw a fascinating double bill last night at the funky, store front theatre on Queen Street east called the Red Sandcastle Theatre.

The two plays were OVERRULED by George Bernard Shaw and ROMANCE by Neil LaBute. It’s a wild paring.

George Bernard Shaw of course wrote challenging plays in the early to middle part of the last century and Neil LaBute is a raw, combative contemporary American playwright. The company presenting them is Neoteny Theatre.

Founder and artistic director Carly Chamberlain says that Neoteny is a company dedicated to producing “contemporary re-imaginings of classic works and introduce little known and under-produced contemporary works to new audiences. With a focus on work that is bold, playful, honest and maybe a little weird.” I love that last bit.

OVERRULED is a farce and a classic one act play. ROMANCE is an ironic title for a definite drama on a failed relationship. Love and fidelity factor heavily in both plays. And both plays were written by playwrights who might be described as curmudgeons.

2) Let’s start with Shaw, that old curmudgeon.

OVERRULED is a farce. We are in an out of the way hotel. Mr Lunn and Mrs. Juno are a couple who are there for a tryst, a rendezvous, some illicit hanky panky with each other. They met on a cruise ship and are at this hotel to carry on their relationship in private.

A cruise ship is the natural incubator for affairs with other people’s husband’s and wives.

Mr. Lunn professes love and desire and devotion to Mrs. Juno while she teases him and leads him a merry chase. It comes out that both are married but not to each other. Both are also deeply in love with their spouses

It also transpires that Mr. Juno and Mrs Lunn (the other couple’s spouses) come to the same hotel with the same intension.They reveal that they too are married but not to each other and love their spouses.

No one is misunderstood by their partner. No one speaks of divorce. They do speak of passion and guilt, As one character says, “Passion is not real passion without guilt.” Thank you Mr. Shaw.

3) Is the play loaded with Shaw’s philosophizing and discoursing on the nature of love and fidelity.

Loaded, but not overloaded and weighed down. All concerned are fastidiously well mannered—a comedy of manners of sorts. They are all articulate, funny, playful and without heartache.

Shaw talks about marriage, monogamy, loyalty and fidelity through his characters. They are witty, confident, unabashed about their passion and not embarrassed when their spouses show up.

4) Shaw requires a certain British reserve in the acting. How does this Canadian cast do?

I think they do well. Their accents are consistent. And yes, even when professing love and devotion Shaw’s characters show a veneer of reserve at least. Decorum; a certain body language that is different from our contemporary times. On the whole I think they do well.

As Mrs. Juno, Caitlin Stewart is coy and impish. Mr. Lunn is described by Shaw as being a dandy right down to the way he wears his hair. I found Kelly Penner’s playing of him a bit effeminate with is not the same as a dandy. And forming kiss curls in his hair is a mistake, I think. With a dandy one thinks of puff, waves, bouffant, but not kiss curls.

As Mr. Juno, Amos Crawley is preening and endearingly pompous. While as Mrs. Lunn, Meghan Swaby is forthright and direct.

Director Carly Chamberlain has realized the style and wit of the piece and, yes, the playfulness.

5) And how about the other curmudgeon, Neil LaBute?

ROMANCE is an ironic title for such an unromantic play—which I guess is the point.

LaBute’s plays are in your face, uncomfortable, challenging to be sure. He has been described as misogynistic because of his handling of women in his plays. I would call him “Neil LaBrute”. He refers to himself as misanthropic—so he dislikes everybody equally and not just women.

With ROMANCE he is also devilish. In this play, he does not name the characters of even gives them a gender. So it can be about two men; a man and a woman or two women.

In a wonderful bit of playfulness director Carly Chamberlain has schedule performances in every configuration. Last night it was played by two women….the audience is invited to come back at a discount to see the other configurations.

6) So what’s the story?

Two characters meet a year after their relationship ended. They were together for about five years. One of the partners wanted out of the relationship, wanting more space. The other partner was devastated of course and tried to reason why this was happening. Now a year later, that left partner has come for a show down of sorts. She’s found some incriminating information that sheds new light for her on what really happened.

We get an unsettling sense of what that relationship was like.

6) How so?

The woman who wanted more space needed it for all the affairs she was having. Monogamy was not in her vocabulary. In this confrontation, old information is rehashed. Old wounds re-opened. In a sense the one who was unfaithful showed some compassion by ending the affair but her partner is not ready to let go.

I must confess I had trouble with the play. The conversation sounded like it should have happened a year before. And the new information should have twigged the wronged party to just leave it.

But that’s too easy because the play is really about a person who is and wants to be the victim and to be wronged by the other, who is the aggressor.

Here’s my problem, why should I care? A professional victim, really? Why should I care? This is the path she has chosen to follow. The aggressor follows her own path too—serial affairs. Am I supposed to side with one over the other? It’s not going to happen.

That said as mannered and controlled as OVERRULED is that is how aggressive, modern and emotionally disruptive ROMANCE is.

Director Carly Chamberlain has guided her two fine actresses, Caitlin Stewart as the philanderer and Meghan Swaby as the victim, to go for it. The acting is muscular, dangerous and unsettling. I like to squirm as a result. Sure there are situations like this. Does it make for a good play? Hard to tell, but the production is dandy.

This are the first two productions of NEOTENY THEATRE. I look forward to more.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

You can see the double bill of OVERRULED and ROMANCE at the Red Sandcastle Theatre at 922 Queen Street East until April 6.

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