by Lynn on May 1, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At 10 Busy Street, Toronto, Ont. (one block north of Queen St. E, off east off Logan)

Written and directed by Cliff Cardinal

Lighting by Andrew Dollar

Costumes by Sage Paul

Sound and music by Richard Feren

Cast: Ryan Cunningham

Cheri Maracle

Patti Shaughnessy

A wonderful new space for VideoCabaret with a play and production that is an homage to that wonderful company.

 The Play. Marie Grace has moved into a house with her children Lisa and Jude. Lisa is pregnant by her boyfriend. Jude is a sweet young man who is developmentally challenged. And the house isn’t theirs. Marie and the family are on the run from the police and Marie felt this house would suit their needs to hide while she thought of her next move. And there is some mystery as to what happened to the boyfriend.

 The Production. Too Good To Be True is a lovely homage by writer-director Cliff Cardinal to VideoCabaret and its style of doing theatre. The production takes place in a black box of a set. There are various levels in the floor and characters walk from one level to another with each level with its own illumination. Appropriate cheesy music (thank you Richard Feren) accompanies each scene, as one would find in a VideoCabaret show.

The costumes (bravo Sage Paul), wigs (ditto Alice Norton) and props (double ditto, Brad Harley) are slightly exaggerated as befits a story that is on the other side of wild. Marie Grace (Cheri Maracle) wears a neon red form fitting outfit of tight plush pants, a top and high boots. She has an elaborate hair-do with red ribbons woven through her hair. Marie is billed as ‘a dancer who is not with the ballet.’ In the play Cheri Maracle as the supremely seductive and quick thinking Grace, shows us some of her moves. One gets the sense that a pole is also included in her act. As played by the marvelous Maracle, Marie is almost demure when dealing with her children, endlessly patient with her son Jude and a bit impatient with her inquisitive daughter Lisa and quietly ruthless with anyone else.

Lisa, played beautifully by Patti Shaughnessy, wears a yellow wig (not blonde, yellow) with a black hair band to keep it in place. She is a mass of bulges as befits an expectant mother. And she wears purple to show it off. As Lisa, Patti Shaughnessy is the one with the common sense. She can stare down her mother with a look of sarcasm and she teases her slow-witted brother Jude mercilessly.

As Jude, Ryan Cunningham,  shiny cheeked, weird longish wig, bright-eyed and totally naïve about the world has that sweet innocence that is both funny and smart at the same time. People want to protect him he’s so trusting.

Cliff Cardinal has written a wild play about people on the run. He has a sense of humour that brings out the oddness of the jokes and gags. What he doesn’t seem to have is a sense of pace. Instead of zipping along effortlessly as these folks use their brains to outsmart those after them, the pace is laborious, it brings things down. There is too much time between scenes and interplay. There should be a breathlessness to it all because of the speed.

Comment. It’s so perfect that the company that made its reputation with The History of the Village of the Small Huts, the telling the whole history of Canada from the time the invaders came to the present, should have as its first show in its new space one that was written and directed by a First Nation artist and acted by First Nation artists. And won’t that be a glorious day when we don’t have to point that out because it will be common place.

This wonderfully warm, exposed brick-walled-space at 10 Busy Street is the first permanent home for VideoCabaret in 40 years. The seats are functional and comfortable. The rest of the space is a rough and ready work-in-progress because that’s how VideoCabaret works. Busy Street is perfect for them, it’s a quiet, quirky street, almost a lane and at number 10 I anticipate that terrific things will happen over the coming years.

Produced by VideoCabaret.

Opened: April 27, 2019.

Closes: May 19, 2019.

Running Time: 70 minutes.

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