Review: SEXTET

by Lynn on November 15, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written and Directed by Morris Panych
Designed by Ken MacDonald
Lighting by Kimberly Purtell
Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne
Starring: Damien Atkins
Laura Condlln
Bruce Dow
Matthew Edison
Rebecca Northan
Jordan Pettle

Sextet is about lots of talk about sex, gender confusion, friendship, but ultimately about love.

The Story. A sextet of musicians is stranded in the town where they are to do a concert, because of a blizzard. They go to a motel and pair up for the most part, except for one musician who has money and can have a room by himself.

Gerard and Mavis are in an open marriage but for this occasion are rooming together. Miraculously Mavis is pregnant but it can’t be Gerard’s for some oddly hilarious reasons, and it shouldn’t be Mavis’s either for her own particular reasons. Otto loves Mavis and believes he is the father of her developing baby. They had a short affair and the baby is the result. Otto is ecstatic because he never knew his father, literally. Otto was a test-tube baby—so I guess you could say his father was a squirt in a vial. (sorry).

Sylvia loves Harry, who is gay, and he loves her, but not in the way that would be physically satisfying to Sylvia. Harry yearns for and loves Dirk. Dirk loves himself and is so self-absorbed he doesn’t notice Harry, until he’s told he might consider looking at Harry in a different light.

The various longings and relationships become clear.

The Production. Ken MacDonald’s set is a cross-section of various motel rooms. They are exactly the same. The detail is masterful, right down to the red light on the radio that illuminates the time. Each has the same colour-scheme—various shades of blue. Each has the same domed lamp. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if each drawer has a Gideon bible, although we don’t see it.

Panych also directs with a sure hand and is in perfect synch with his gifted cast.

As Harry, Damien Atkins is a flutter of uncertainty because he loves Sylvia in one way and Dirk in another. As Dirk, Matthew Edison has that demeanour of a man so in love with himself he seems to pose so that others can gaze at him too. It’s a performance of beautifully modulated reactions. But he also seems to have the hots for Sylvia. As Sylvia, Laura Condlln has a veneer of irreverence to hide her longing for Harry. Bruce Dow as Gerard, has that confident attitude of the man who leads the group. He loves his wife, odd marriage though it is, and there is tenderness. Mavis, as played by Rebecca Northan is matter of fact and irritated when dealing with Otto. They had a fling now leave me alone she tries to tell him. Otto (Jordan Pettle) pursues her ardently. He wants to do right by her. She’s having none of it.

Comment. Sextet starts out looking like it’s about sex but is really about love. With all the comings and goings it sounds like a farce but it’s not. I think it’s playwright Morris Panych at his wittiest and funniest. I was a bit concerned as one liner after one liner sailed through the air hitting its mark because it seems it’s the playwright being funny through the characters. I’m not sure his characters would come up with stuff that funny.

But slowly all that wittiness gave way to vulnerability, the wounded heart, insecurity, yearning, disappointment, and love for all the right reasons. You felt compassion for every single character.

There is a pregnancy, but not with whom you would expect. How Panych solves this is breathtakingly moving. For all the colliding personalities the group comes together to symbolically make music, and they are in total harmony.

Produced by Tarragon Theatre

Opened: Nov. 12, 2014
Closes: Dec. 14, 2014
Cast: 6: 4 men, 2 women
Running Time: 90 minutes

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