by Lynn on August 14, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Five Points Theatre, Barrie, Ont. Produced by Theatre By the Bay. Plays until Aug. 21.

Written by Burke Campbell

Directed by Iain Moggach

Costumes by Sandra Roberts

Lighting by Za Hughes

Sound design and composer, Joshua Doerksen

Burke Campbell play, A Scandal for All Seasons, is a sex farce that tries too hard to be funny and often isn’t, but the production directed by Iain Moggach is bold.

The Story. The story takes place in Barrie, Ontario. Augusta Peacock and Doris Lester are two wealthy women ‘of a certain age’ who begin drinking fancy drinks in the morning and continue through the day. Augusta has just come out of mourning for her late husband Jeffrey. Doris has been married seven times and has arrived to commiserate.  

Both women seem unlikely as friends since neither trusts the other. But they do have a lot in common. They are rich and bored. They are eager to make a statement of their presence. They drink. And both women are sexually charged and frustrated in scratching that sexual itch until they focus on their recently elected young-stud Mayor, Biff Worthington. I believe the technical term to describe Augusta and Doris is ‘cougars’, as in they are like wild cats prowling for sexual gratification with younger men.

Biff is very earnest, committed to improving Barrie to its best potential and intensely naïve when he doesn’t recognize when August and Doris are putting the moves on him. Augusta and Doris plot to get Biff re-elected while also maneuvering to have him scratch where they itch.

The Production. The set is an interesting design for Augusta’s house. The large, multi-paned window at the back gives a hint at how huge Augusta’s house is. There are pillar formations as art-work that also suggest the size of the house. There is a couch with multiple pillows, but they look rather mis-matched suggesting that Augusta (Lynn Weintraub) does not have the greatest of taste. Her bar to one side is very well stocked so that’s where her focus is.

Augusta enters wearing a very frilly, long black dressing gown to suggest that she is in mourning. But when Doris (Elana Post) arrives to commiserate, Augusta announces she is through mourning and takes off the dressing gown to reveal a vibrant coloured form-fitting dress, accompanied by a lot of necklaces-pearls etc. Kudos to costume designer Sandra Roberts.

Doris is just as flashy if not more so with her ensemble: a slinky long tuxedo coat over slim tuxedo pants and dangerously high heels. She wears strategically placed designer jewelry (a sparkly Chanel brooch and a Gucci belt buckle). It’s the morning. Who is Doris dressing for? Augusta? Both women drink Augusta’s colourful concoctions which she confesses involves aphrodisiacs.

One day, while cycling Biff (Jonathon LeRose) falls off his bike right where Augusta lives and is taken in by Augusta to calm down from the shock of the fall and losing his water bottle. Biff wears spandex shorts, a tight t-shirt and his Mayor’s medallion around his neck—he will wear that medallion in every scene. We know from endless sex farces that both Augusta and Doris will compete with each other so that Biff is eventually topless and wearing a toga. And mindful of Augusta’s penchant for aphrodisiacs there will be an erection of prodigious proportions.

Iain Moggach is the inventive entrepreneurial artistic director of Theatre By the Bay. He has created shows that showcase the history of Barrie by having the audience travel around the harbor and various notable areas of the city and engaging electronically with historical characters in the city’s past. He has guided young actors to create their own shows. And with A Scandal for All Seasons he is producing and directing a sex farce that pokes affectionate fun at the politics and perhaps stodginess of the city of Barrie. His direction is irreverent and bold. His cast is mindful of how serious comedy (farce) is and they all give performances that don’t wink at the audience. Lynn Weintraub as Augusta is almost flaky in her endeavors to attract men. Elana Post as Doris is more a focused cougar with her sights clearly on ‘winning’ Biff as her sexual prize. Jonathon LeRose as Biff is eager, earnest and almost dim in his sexual naivety.

But A Scandal for All Seasons struggles to be funny because of Burke Campbell’s efforts to be provocative. Initially there is a hint of Oscar Wilde as Augusta tries to float some witty saying but it usually lacks the sharpness of wit to pull it off. The efforts at double entendres barely reach the double digits. The story continues to spiral out of control with more and more complications added that are less and less funny. And it all seems so predictable.

Comment. At two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission, A Scandal for All Seasons is too long and often labored in its efforts to be funny. It should be ruthlessly cut to 90 minutes with no intermission. Any joke or bit that seems like the character is standing and trying to be witty with no purpose to the scene, the character or the story should be cut. And there are a lot of those instances especially towards the end.

The actual Mayor of Barrie was sitting behind me on opening night. He seemed to have a good time. Or perhaps he was just being a good politician, happy he wasn’t seeking re-election.   

Theater By The Bay presents:

Plays until, Aug. 21, 2022.

Running time, 2 hours, 15 minutes (1 intermission).

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