by Lynn on June 10, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Scott Sharplin
Lighting by Jason Golinsky
Sound by Scott Sharplin
Costumes by Mary-Jean Doyle
A wall of cardboard boxes at the back Uncredited.
Starring: Wesley J. Colford
Jenna Lahey

A very slight play boated to two hours, appearing to deal with deep issues and doing it badly.

The Story. Airlea and Ben meet at a club. They hook up. He’s a down to earth young man with an easy disposition. She’s a flighty, airhead who makes up words to express herself (LARP—LIVE ACTION ROLE PLAYING—as opposed to another kind of action?????) She wants no commitments. He goes along with it. She wants only firsts: first time having sex, first time waking up together etc. And no lies. They can’t lie to each other. They stretch their first time having sex to six days. This non-commitment results in Airlea and Ben staying together for 11 years. After this she feels they need a break but can’t say it so she blurts out that they should have a baby. Ben goes along with this too. They are totally unsuited for parenthood and that occurs to Ben but not to Airlea. Life continues but there is a rough patch. He is distraught. She handles it in the same ridiculous way she handles everything, unrealistically.

The Production. Airlea (Jenna Lahey) and Ben (Wesley J. Colford) begin by awkwardly facing the audience because they really don’t know how to begin. They try several times commiserating together. Each time they begin from the beginning. Finally they get going enough to move the story along.

A simple mattress is their bed. They thrash around. They display affection. They deal with life’s milestones although in a disjointed, awkward way. Ben acts as Airlea’s anchor, perhaps because Colford’s natural charm and conviction just make him appear like a credible character. Even when Airlea drops her bombshell at the end she does not seem a character as much as she is a mouthpiece for writer Scott Sharplin’s efforts to be quirky. That Jenna Lahey as Airlea has a harsh, strident voice with little variation in her performance, doesn’t help. I sense that Scott Sharplin’s idea of direction is to move the cast around the set. If you don’t write credible characters, no matter how untraditional their relationship, then it’s hard to care at all about either of them.

Comment. Scott Sharplin has said in his program note that “the play is about non-traditional relationships. The characters don’t the follow established path. He also says “don’t let others tell you how to love.” Huh? Well since these two are the only ones in the play that seems a bit confusing. When Airlea has a speech to herself, composed of several repetitions of the word “ok,” as if she’s trying to convince herself she’ll be ok, you know the playwright doesn’t know how to get out of the rut of not having created a credible character with something worth listening too.

First Time Last Time is a slight play, bloated with pretension.

Aim for the Tangent Theatre and the Big Smokey Collective presents:

Run: June 10-21, 2015
Cast: 2; 1 man, 1 woman
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes (including an intermission)

www.passemuraille .ca

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