Review: MULES

by Lynn on February 17, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Streetcar Crowsnest, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic

Directed by Vikki Anderson

Set by Brandon Kleiman

Lighting by Jennifer Lennon

Sound by John Gzowski

Costumes by Lindsay Forde

Fight Coordinator, Simon Fon

Cast: Eva Barrie

Anita Majumdar

Tim Walker

A gripping play and production about the desperation of two women who chose a dangerous way of getting out of poverty and despair.  Billed as “A dark comedy about friendship. And drug smuggling.”

The Story. Cindy and Crystal were friends in high school but lost touch when they both graduated. But a chance meeting brought them back together as friends. Cindy is an exotic dancer and possibly a sex worker in hock to a drug dealer. Crystal is a cashier in a grocery store. Both struggle to make ends meet.  Cindy, the more street smart of the two, suggests that Crystal  go to Bogota, get several capsules containing cocaine which she will swallow, and come back and ‘expel’ them so they can be sold (by the drug dealer) and they split the proceeds. There are complications, as there usually are. How they plan to get out of their jam is gripping.

The Production. Brandon Kleiman has designed a set of a washroom in the Vancouver airport. There are three stalls. There is paper toweling on the floor. Interestingly, the sink is pristine. The sink bowl is gleaming and the tap is spotless. Troy the janitor (TimWalker) takes his job seriously and tries to keep things clean.

Cindy (Anita Majumdar) puts a ‘sign’ up that says to stay out because maintenance is happening. She wears tight jeans and a sparkly “Guess” t-shirt. Anita Majumdar illuminates Cindy’s smarts. She is always thinking. Her eyes dart, sizing up a situation. She is wily and a great manipulator to get Crystal (Eva Barrie) to get in the stall and do her ‘business’ at get those capsules out of her body to be cleaned and gathered.

Crystal wears a frilly frock that looks girly and a bit frivolous. Crystal is naïve, sweet, stubborn and desperate to make a good life for herself and her 11-year-old daughter. Eva Barrie’s playing of Crystal is as impeccable as Majumdar’s is in playing Cindy.

Each actress brings subtlety and variation to their characterizations. Crystal seems even dim but eventually “gets it” regarding how deep she is in this scheme. While Cindy is street savvy, she is controlled by the drug dealer. He calls her several times wondering where they are and when they will deliver the drugs. It’s to director Vikki Anderson’s credit that we hear wisps of the conversation on the cell phone and we certainly get the clear idea of why Cindy is terrified of him. Anderson stages the play with a tight ease and aggressiveness as the tension rises. We breathe a little faster when Troy enters the bathroom to clean it. The dynamic changes and it’s dangerous. Simon Fon has created a fight between the three characters that is vivid, gripping and violent.

Comment. Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic are no strangers to creating plays that pack a punch. The writing here is bracing, muscular and compelling. There are moments that seem to lag suggesting that even this 90 minute play could be shorter and still be effective, but that’s a quibble.

Graham and Vlaskalic  wrote The Drowning Girls with Charlie Tomlinson, about a man who married and drowned his wives for their money. They have ramped up the suspense and desperation in Mules. A “mule” is a drug smuggler who ingests the drug in packets to smuggle it into the country. Desperation seems to be the watchword for this play. Both women are desperate to get out of their situation. Troy the janitor, also has his desperate issues—he needs the job and has only been at it for a month. His supervisor is tough and any slip could give him Troy the sack. The last thing he needs are two women preventing him from doing his job.

Mules is a gripping play that will have you clutching the armrests.

Presented by Theatrefront in association with Hit and Myth

Opened: Feb. 15, 2019.

Closes: March 2, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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