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At the Corner of Virtue and Sexmore

The ensembleAt  the Corner of Virtue and Sexmore
by William Maranda
Directed by Elizabeth McLaughlin
William Maranda  Productions
Studio 16
April 23 to May 7

Vancouver, BC:  The premise behind this play sounded quite promising. A comedy  about 7 strangers in a boarding house at the corner where the street Virtue meets Sexmore - and where raging hormones collide with celibacy. The last play I saw by playwright Maranda was The 8th Land  which I really enjoyed so I anticipated a sound evening's entertainment.
 I was also intrigued by the way in which this work had evolved into the production now being staged. Last September, four groups of Vancouver actors, 6 per group, participated in a a rather unique production process around the staging of this play. Each  group was given  a "Seven Characters in Need" Production package which contained one quarter of the script for this play, a set design and a list of provided props.  They had 48 hours to memorize their parts, develop costumes and to stage  their portion of the script. The four groups then performed their sections of the play in sequence. One group was selected to finally perform the entire play, under the direction of McLaughlin, who had directed the winning sections.
The small intimate Studio 16 is well suited for the staging of this play which is billed as a farce. The set design  by Craig Alfredson uses the space very well.  The audience looks into the two level  interior of the V&S Hotel. On either end of the second floor a door opens into a room with a bed. One is inhabited by sex-addicted Bob Bob (J.P. McGlynn). The other, by Mr. Cable (Matt Kennedy) who wanted to research techniques to make him into a sex  machine!
The doors were numbered 2, 3, 5,  and  604;   promising something  mysterious.  I really loved the set which  had great potential for a fast paced farcical use of the various doors. But  despite the often frenetic pace of the play, the direction did not make good enough use of this aspect of the set and the 604 mystery was not well enough developed.
Theodore checks Bob Bob who was tied up by RoseThe problem may have originated with the script or the mish-mash of character interpretations resulting from the 48 hour process. It was really difficult to find anything interesting about the characters who were superficial to the point of almost being caricatures. As a result their supposed problems seemed ridiculous rather than funny.
For example, Rose (Katie Bennison) had just left her husband of twenty four years- an all-to- common modern day problem.  Yet instead of  exploring her issues of celibacy and dislike of  men with sensitivity and humour,  it was treated with flippant crudity and was completely unbelievable.  
Sarah (Marita Easton)  the earnest librarian  wants to seduce Cable, but somehow he is not interested in her but will have sex with Irene ( Meeshelle Neal), the octogenarian.  Really? The whole place is managed by Della Casa (Jeffrey Flieler)  a   curmudgeon who communes with the dead Tennesse Williams. Was the cross-gender casting just to be funny?   I understand that  TW would not have had a relationship with a  womanly woman but would he really have wanted a man dressed as a woman?  So ultimately the only character who had genuine moments of  veracity was Theodore the bellboy, played with a sweet sincerity by Patrick Germain.
 The director really needed to pull back the somewhat inexperienced cast so that they did not play everything with  the same frenetic pacing. While good farce mandates a fast pace, there is a distinct difference between directed fast  pacing and the over-the -top acting that exudes uncontrolled energy.
I really wanted to find this  funny and entertaining but  sadly I did not although there were potentially a lot of real issues in there that could  have been addressed with humour.  I enjoyed Maranda's play The 8th Land.  I did not enjoy this. I  look forward to seeing what he will create next.