Review: C’MON, ANGIE!

by Lynn on April 23, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Assembly Theatre, 1479 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.

Written by Amy Lee Lavoie

Directed by Cristina Cugliandro

Set and costume by Nancy Anne Perrin

Sound by Tim Lindsay

Lighting by Chin Palipane

Cast: Ryan Hollyman

Anne Van Leeuwen

Wow! Amy Lee Lavoie has written a gripping play about consent and how talking around the issue and miss-hearing what is being said ramps up the tension. Terrific acting by Anne Van Leeuwen and Ryan Hollyman and smart direction by Cristina Cugliandro.

 The Story. Angie and Reed have just spent the night together, presumably to start an affair. They know each other. She works for his wife. They just happen to have met in a bar and one thing lead to another. That first night together doesn’t seem to have gone well. Angie accuses him of assault. Reed is stunned at this. They go over the details. Her perception and his recollection differ as do so many other aspects of their communication or lack thereof.

 The Production. The audience files in while Angie (Anne Van Leeuwen)  sits on an unmade bed. Her back is to the audience. She is in her underwear. Her head is bowed and she is still for most of the audience’s arrival. The few furnishings in Nancy Anne Perrin’s set are stylish. There is a broken lamp on the floor on the other side of the bed, almost out of view.

When the lights go up on stage Angie rouses herself from whatever is occupying her to put on her top and jogging tights. The sound of a shower is heard off left. Angie looks darkly in that direction. Reed (Ryan Hollyman) is in the shower and calls about wanting deodorant etc. She answers with controlled calm. When he enters there is a towel around his waist. He is fresh, buoyant and upbeat about a great night of sex he’s had and anticipates more as the affair blossoms. Angie is reticent, cool; something is bothering her we surmise from her tone and serious demeanor.

He wants to talk about getting together again. She wants him to address the fact that he assaulted her last night. Anne Van Leeuwen as Angie is matter-of-fact, focused and firm when she accuses him.  He is mortified. Ryan Hollyman as Reed is totally shocked, confused by her accusation and wants her to explain herself. He does not rail and defend himself blindly. He just needs clarification.

What follows in this taut, beautifully acted and clearly directed production is playwright Amy Lee Lavoie providing a smartly written play of how women and men see things differently; how what they see might be different for the other and defined differently. She accuses him of assault and he accuses her of not being clear in her concerns; she expecting he would ‘get it’ and acknowledge what he did was wrong and admit it; he defending himself by telling her she was not forceful enough in telling him to stop and being clear about it. Lavoie beautifully establishes the subtle differences in Angie and Reed’s perception of an experience, of how each differs in their defense and how desperation leads Reed to threaten to play dirty.

As the conversation ramps up and we realize what is at stake for him and how he will defend himself against her the sense of danger is palpable I wonder why Angie waits until the morning to confront Reed about her accusation. I wonder why one or the other doesn’t leave as the tension rises. That no one does and both stand their ground adds to the tension in the room.

Director Cristine Cugliandro has a firm grip on ramping up the emotion and anger at what happened. Both Van Leeuwen and Hollyman are equally matched. She seems to have the upper hand because she is the accuser. Hollyman is a subtle mix of unsettled, confused, and almost accommodating until he turns defensive. It’s to the credit of all concerned that we the audience might think that physical violence might be close at hand—such a cliché but this play and production doesn’t fall into that trap.

I do note that Cristine Cugliandro does have Angie pass close in front of Reed a few times, which I think might be bold or even reckless since Angie is accusing him of assault. Perhaps this is another move to make the audience squirm.

Comment. When I saw Amy Lee Lavoie’s first play, Rabbit, Rabbit at SummerWorks a few years ago, I was struck with her sense of drama, dialogue, theatricality and ability to grip an audience. She has grown as a writer and tackled something from our headlines and has the audience fluctuating as to who is more right than the other. All the things I admired in her first play are there in spades with C’mon, Angie! that title says everything when Reed hears her accusation. He doesn’t believe it. (“Oh c’mon, Angie!). Lavoie has beautifully created a drama in which we are always weighing the arguments of one side and the other.

Leroy Street Theatre and the Spadina Avenue Gang present:

Began: April 12, 2019.

Closes: April 27, 2019.

Running time: 80 minutes.

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