by Lynn on October 29, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Tarragon Theatre, Extra Space, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Gord Rand
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Sound and original music by Todd Charlton
Costumes by Charlotte Dean
Lighting and set by Kimberly Purtell
Cast: Phillippa Domville
Chris Earle
Allegra Fulton
Sydney Owchar

Gord Rand has written a bracing, jaw-clenching play about a man going through a mid-life crisis involving a 15 year old girl, convinced that everybody else has the problem.

The Story. The trouble with Gary Adams is that he’s a 45 year old gym teacher and the volleyball coach of the girl’s team, who’s smitten by his star player, Mercedes McPfefferidge. She’s 15. He knows she feels the same way about him. The day after the team wins the championship Mr. Adams comes home to his wife Peggy and tells her he’s leaving her and it’s for the best.

Peggy seems to know—it’s midnight; she’s in her bathrobe; and Mercedes’ parent called Peggy to tell her what their daughter told them about Gary. Gary and Peggy had been friends with the McPfefferidges (say that fast three times).

What follows is Gary’s intense defence that nothing dirty happened. He says it frequently and with such conviction we know something is not right. And conspicuous by its absence is any question about what Gary’s definition of ‘dirty’ is. Does he mean they didn’t ‘do it’ in the mud? Does he mean they ‘do it’ in the shower with the added benefit of bath gel? Peggy probes and probes with pointed questions as Gary continues to deny anything unseemly. He changes his story a few times still convinced that nothing happened.

The trouble with Mr. Adams is that the matter has escalated and he’s in trouble and needs a lawyer. His lawyer, Barbara puts him through the wringer to get at the truth. We find out the truth two years later in the last Act of this 80 minute production.

The Production. Director Lisa Peterson has directed a tight, taut production that never seems rushed but slowly grips you. Charlotte Deans’s spare set of two chairs, a small square table and two platforms that become a cadenza, a bed, sofa etc. are quickly and efficiently configured for each Act by the cast.

The play opens with Peggy and Gary staring at each other. It’s midnight. He’s just come back from the volleyball championships in another city. She’s in her bathrobe and he’s telling her he’s leaving. As Gary Adams, Chris Earle is buoyant at his new-found zest for living since Mercedes came bouncing into his life. He’s off-handed with Peggy. As Peggy, Philippa Domville is furious with him. While he ducks and parries to make his points. She is completely still, sharp-tongued and focused. Gary is a naïve middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis. Peggy is an adult with a fury.

This segues into the next scene with Gary facing his straight-backed, tight-lawyer, Barbara. At times she seems like the prosecution she puts him through such a wringer. As Barbara, Allegra Fulton is masterful. She is calm and dangerous. She keeps chipping away and chipping away at Gary’s arrogance until we see further cracks in Gary’s story. We know he’s been lying and he’s glib and cocky about it. We just don’t know to what extent. Barbara gives us a clue.

We finally see Mercedes in a scene set two years later. If ever there is a person who can bring Gary to his knees it’s her. As Mercedes, Sydney Owchar is confident, relaxed and knows she has the upper hand.

There is a sex scene between Peggy and her husband Gary that is vigorous and raw. Neither Peterson nor her cast play it safe. You are gripped. In fact there is another sex scene besides the previous one. It involves Gary alone, eating cake—it is erotic, seductive, obsessive and heart-breaking.

Peterson and her gifted cast have captured the nuances and tricky footwork of a besotted middle aged man who can’t think straight because of the young woman who has bewitched him, and the effects on all those around him.

Comment. Playwright Gord Rand has taken a familiar subject—the male-mid-life-crisis—filled it with cliché situations, and yet has turned it on its head. He has created Gary as a boy-man, naïve and swaggering, and yet in a strange way we feel just a touch sorry for him at his delusion and desperation. Rand has a fine way with a phrase, clever, funny, and often zinging. He has a fine ear for how people hurt and one up each other.

The Trouble with Mr. Adams is a bracing, jaw-clenching play and it’s no trouble to recommend it.

Tarragon Theatre presents:

Opened: October 28, 2015
Closes: November 29, 2015
Cast: 4; 1 man, 3 women
Running Time: 80 minutes

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1 Jerry October 31, 2015 at 7:21 pm

In general I agree with your review, though I found the cake eating pathetic, not erotic.
Note that it’s bath ‘gel’ not ‘jell(o), and Gary was put through the ‘wringer’–a reference to old-school ‘wringer washers’ — you can look it up: