Dangerous Corner. Guest Review

 Anna Galvin and Jennifer Clement. Photo by Emily CooperGuest reviewer: Amanda LockitchGuest reviewer Amanda Lockitch

Dangerous Corner by J.B. Priestley
Directed by  Bill Dow
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Vancouver Playhouse
May 1- 22, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Talking with a friend after seeing Dangerous Corner I realized just how quickly time can obscure fame. While we both liked the production, my friend admitted, much to her chagrin, that she did not realize we were going to see a play by the British writer J.B.Priestly. Rather, she thought the play was starring Canadian actor Jason Priestley.

Granted, the melodramatic tone of this production might well be a match for something out of 90210, and ultimately the play revolved around a series of love triangles. Yet it was somehow easier for me to empathize with the intrigue and scandal of this family of book publishers over the tribulations of middle-America twins moving to Beverly Hills, California. (I will admit that the last time I watched 90210 was in the 1990s and not having seen any of the current remake I have no idea if middle-American teens even exist in the new 90210).

In a nutshell, this play is a series of "I'm married to you but I'm (not so) secretly in love with him" admissions and reversals. It saves the best whopper as its lead into intermission and keeps the audience tongues wagging throughout the break.

The cast of Dangerous Corner. Photo by Emily CooperIn the programme it states that this is one of Priestly's "Time Plays" and the play ends by restarting the beginning. The same, but different. We do not turn that "dangerous corner" the second time around.

While this may seem similar to one of the ideas that feuled the Theatre of the Absurd, where end meets beginning in a never ending loop, this play is far from what one would get with an absurdist text and is instead high domestic drama. 

The frame that director Bill Dow adds really brings into focus his idea of illusion versus reality. The audience begins by seeing the backstage workings of the play about to be performed, including this cast's ritual of singing together and Stage Managment making last minute adjustments to costumes and set peices. The actors then take their places with thier backs to the audience as if they are about to perform for an audience in front of us. But when the curtain rises and the play proper begins, the justification for the women all facing upstage is that they are listening to a radio drama eminating from the radio set on the upstage table.

The pretend break down of the the 4th wall brings to the fore Dow's fascination with the "relationship between truth and fiction in the theatre" and "how it works". This shift of intention and perspective is the kind of magical moment that keeps me attending live theatre. A sudden surprise or a new way of breathing life into an old text are the hallmarks of a great director and Dow found a number of ways to make this happen. And each time it was an unexpected moment.

One thing the Playhouse consistently provides is outstanding production values. More specifically, in this show Alison Green's set and costumes pull you right into the era of the 1930s and provide multiple playing spaces on which the actors can work. The acting was uniformly excellent and my only caveat is the amount of smoking dictated by the text. The cloying smell of clove cigarettes was really overpowering, especially sitting so close to the stage.

This play only runs for another few days. Keep your eyes peeled (and your twitter attuned) as Review From the House is giving away a pair of free tickets!

For tickets: call 604-873-3311 or book on line at  vancouverplayhouse.com.

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