by Lynn on April 30, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, Toronto, Ont. Produced by Studio 180 Theatre in association with Tarragon Theatre. Runs until May 12, 2024.

Written by James Fritz

Directed by Mark McGrinder

Set and costumes by Jackie Chau

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Lyon Smith

Cast: Tavaree Daniel-Simms

Sergio Di Zio

Megan Follows

Jadyn Nasato

Di (Megan Follows) and her husband David (Sergio Di Zio) are fretting. Their 17-year-old son Jack has been beaten up by the brother of his ex-girlfriend, Cara (Jadyn Nasato). There’s blood on his good shirt. It seems there’s a video of Jack and Cara having sex and some how it’s gotten onto the internet. It’s a mystery how such a thing got onto the internet, until it’s not a mystery at all.

Di wants to go to the police. David doesn’t want her to do that. He’s talked to Jack and David feels that the police don’t need to know. Di and David have big plans for Jack, who Di knows is an innocent in this situation. Both parents want Jack to go to a good university so they send him to private school. They never approved of Cara. They feel she’s lower class. She and her family true citizens of Scarborough, a tough suburb of Toronto. (British playwright James Fritz’s 2014 play was originally set in Croydon—a tough southern suburb of London, England).  

Di tries to reason with Cara who wants nothing to do with her or her son. She knows that no one would believe her. It seems the sex was not consensual, at least that’s what it appears on the video. At first David says he never saw it, then after waffling admits he has. He reluctantly tells Di that the video didn’t look like it was consensual sex.  Di notes with this reversal of the information from David, that she could usually tell when he was lying. Either she’s losing her touch or David is getting more adept at lying. Di also tries to find the truth from Nick (Tavaree Daniel-Simms), a friend of Jack’s. He wants nothing to do with Di or Jack. It seems Nick liked Cara first—he loves her—and when Nick introduced Cara to Jack, Jack made his move to become Cara’s boyfriend.

The mystery person is Jack, whom we never see, and it’s a mystery if Di ever talked to him about what happened. David seems to be running interference.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds denotes the running time of the video that’s on the internet. Playwright James Fritz has a grand old time having his characters offering clues, information, mis-information and lies to each other and the audience, so that they are constantly trying to figure out where the truth is. One must consider the source of information. Is the person honest? Are they a liar? We know how to proceed or trust when we can ascertain where the truth is.

When Di says for a second time “I could always tell when you were lying” after David reveals yet another lie and it wasn’t because she ferreted out the truth, then we know what kind of moral bankrupt David is. That Jack videoed having what might not be consensual sex with his girlfriend and then discarded her, suggests he inherited his father’s lack of moral fiber.  We don’t know why Di has stayed with David if she needs to hone her lie-detecting-abilities.

Interestingly if we meet a consistent liar in life, we stop believing them. If we meet that person in a play we stop caring about them and those who are complicit. There is such a deliberate swirl of deceit in Four Minutes Twelve Seconds that the fun and frustration is seeing how often characters refuse to find the truth. “ASK JACK TOGETHER WHAT HAPPENED!!!” rather than trusting David with the information, you want to say to these hovering helicopter parents. “And, oh, yeah, CALL THE POLICE!”

The play is about the striving for class and social climbing by Di and David. Jackie Chau’s simple, stylish set and props suggest a family who think of quality labels and ritzy things. The clothes are tailored and rich looking. While the videoing of everything in one’s life is normal in this day and age, so is being devoid of scruples, conscience and character, at least in the case of Jack and his parents. While they look down on Cara and Nick as lower class, those two are the ones with character.

The cast is fine. As Di, Megan Follows is a committed, trusting mother whose son can do no wrong. She contends with a lying husband—who obviously has been doing this a lot in that shallow marriage—and puts up with it perhaps because David elevates her to another level of class. As David, Sergio Di Zio is boyish, easy-going and manipulates the situation with ease. He ties to keep the urgency down and not raise alarms. Jadyn Nasato as Cara is terrific. She puts on a tough front but is melting with the humiliation of it all. She is believed her by brother and father who take matters into their hands in the best way they know. Jadyn Nasato gives a nuanced, subtle performance full of detail and richness. As Nick, Tavaree Daniel-Simms is also impressive. One can see this character loves Cara and wants to protect her. He has respect for Di as an elder, but the situation with Jack makes him sick. It’s a lovely performance.

Director Mark McGrinder establishes the relationships between characters and the fine balance they all have to achieve so as not to tip the play one way or the other. It is interesting observing the play, rather than entering into the world of it, perhaps because the one character we want to see and hear from, we never do (Jack). I guess we get the full measure of Jack in just “four minutes and twelve seconds.” All we needed was to spend time with his parents to see where ‘he gets it from.’

Studio180theatre presents in association with Tarragon Theatre:

Runs until May 12 2024.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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