by Lynn on June 29, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Saturday, June 28, 2024. CRITICS CIRCLE, 89.5. Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome at the Here for Now Theatre, Stratford, Ont. Playing until July 13, 2024.

Written by Jane Cooper Ford

Directed by Megan Watson

Set and costumes by Rebecca Chaikin

Cast: Laura de Carteret

David Keeley

Stacy Smith

Shannon Taylor

Funny, wise and beautifully done.

The Story and performance. This is the world premiere of Jane Cooper Ford’s comedy. The title: Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome seems so staid, as if two efficient people are planning something normal such as a dinner party, or a meeting. What they are planning is anything but normal.

Paul (David Keeley) and Linda (Laura De Carteret) are married. They are accomplished people. He’s a judge and she’s a successful lawyer. But their marriage is in trouble and they need help. So Linda finds Sienna’s advertisement on Kijiji offering to perform a sexual threesome and arranges for Sienna to come to the house for the threesome. Linda tells Paul it’s either this to shake up their marriage, or a divorce and that shocks him.  He never thought the marriage was in that much trouble, but there had to be some concern if he’s ageable to this arrangement.

On the appointed day of the threesome Linda is nervous and Paul is a bit uptight. Sienna (Shannon Taylor) arrives. She’s buoyant, charming, inquisitive about her two ‘clients’ and what they want from this arrangement. Sienna asks both Paul and Linda what they want her to do to them sexually. This throws Linda into a panic—no one has ever asked her before. And it kind of excites Paul.

And then Paul’s sister Gwen (Stacy Smith) arrives in a fury because she says she’s left her husband and children because of some argument or other. This then upends the whole dynamic and of course adds to the humour.

Gwen does not apologize for the intrusion, nor does she realize the tension in the room from Paul and Linda. Gwen is selfish, self-absorbed and doesn’t really put this situation together until later. Paul is annoyed because I think he might have been curious about sex in a threesome. Linda is just embarrassed and appalled by it all and comes close to calling it off. Sienna is again curious at this new person—Gwen– and what drives her. Sienna is watchful, observant and perceptive about what is going on there. She comes to a conclusion about Gwen that at first seems preposterous, but then upon reflection it’s probably true.

We’ve all seen situations like this before in plays/comedies; a marriage is in trouble and the couple try something drastic get them out of their rut. The couple go to a motel for a ‘dirty weekend’ and it’s a failure. Or they go to a marriage counsellor and the results could go either way.  Paul and Linda Plan a Threesomeoffers an alternative with little twists and turns.

I love that while it looks like sex is the answer, of course it’s not. And we learn that from Sienna. She is really the ‘outside eye, the arm’s length observer here. She can size up situations more clearly and efficiently than Linda and Pau who are in the middle of it.  That outside eye, the impartial observer is needed to see how Paul and Linda interact, to see the problem. Sienna could be the marriage counsellor, the psychotherapist etc. calm and cool, trying to find a solution. In the play, all she knows is that she is there for a threesome, she doesn’t know anything else about Paul and Linda.

Sienna is the one with the power here—she has something they think they need—sex with her in different configurations. Shannon Taylor as Sienna handles that power beautifully. She is always smiling and observing. She is never judgmental and that seems a novelty with Paul and Linda who are always judgmental.  Sienna is the stranger here, so she innocently asks both Paul and Linda what they want in the sex. This leads to a deeper discovery—that when Paul and Linda have sex with each other they never ask what the other wants for pleasure. Linda gives Paul what she thinks he wants and Paul never asks Linda because she never complains. It slowly dawns on Paul and Linda that more consideration, communication and understanding of the other is in order to solve their marriage problems, not sex with a stranger.

Gwen is oblivious because she has her own issues. And of course, Sienna can size up Gwen as well, again, quicker and more precisely than Paul or Linda can. Truths are told, listened to, considered and thought about.

The production is terrific.  The show is performed under a large tent on the grounds of the Stratford Perth Museum. The set by Rebecca Chaikin is an arrangement of overstuffed furniture—as befits a Rosedale couple who are well off. Rebecca Chaikin has also designed the costumes: stylish for Paul and Linda, jeans and blouse for Gwen, and a summery comfortable dress for Sienna that is not even close to trying to be seductive. She doesn’t need to be seductive, she just is.

They even have an assortment of cheese, nuts and apricots on offer for a snack and drinks at the ready, as if it’s just company before they have sex. I love how Paul and Linda keep up the appearance of normalcy and politeness.

Director Megan Watson establishes the relationships beautifully. There is energy: kinetic, nervous, anticipatory. Megan Watson keeps the pace steadily growing until Paul and Linda have to take a breath and see the real problem in their marriage is communication.

And the acting is dandy. Laura de Carteret as Linda is skittish, anxious and fidgety. David Keeley as Paul is also anxious and uptight. Both banter back and forth landing their jokes and funny situations with style and confidence. Shannon Taylor as Sienna is fascinating. She is very relaxed, again, as I said, she has the power. She also has a keen sense of the humour of the situation—this nervous couple who have no idea what to do in a threesome. Gwen offers a distraction but cause for more humour.  Shannon Taylor is so watchful and subtlety reactive. She listens with easy intensity—you can see her sizing up the situations and the issues.  She is slow to offer a comment, choosing instead to offer an observation that will be helpful for both Paul and Linda to help them solve their own issues. And of course they do discover a way forward by talking to one another and being more watchful and considerate.

As for Gwen, Stacy Smith is deliberately manic in her emotions, angry, giddy, confused and always funny. When she comes to a revelation about herself it’s like a mystery has been solved.

The plays is funny in the sense of relationships and attitudes and I would assume that a lot of people in the audience would identify with the problems illuminated in the relationships.

To re-iterate, Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome is a clever play about the importance of love, relationships, marriage, and communication with one’s partner. Sex is the least of it. It’s the easy part. Talking, communication and consideration is harder and where problems begin to be solved. I liked this play a lot and the production is terrific.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until July 13, 2024.

Running time: 50 minutes approx. (no intermission).

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