This year, the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Association has partnered with Arts Court Productions to put on a Summer theatre festival called Summer Fling. I think it’s great when businesses, artists, and communities collaborate with each other to produce an event showcasing art. Hopefully, this new partnership will continue. With this in mind, I set off to Arts Court to catch both Louis Lemire’s Inseparable and Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock in order to get a taste for what this new festival is about.
Both plays are very different. Louis Lemire’s Inseparable is about an imagined meeting between Wolfe and Montcalme during the “Battle of the Plains of Abraham” and has elements of both a farce and a historical drama. The play starts out strong. Mathew Romantini plays a foppish (and possibly homosexual) Wolfe who is captured by Montcalme (Jerome Bourgault). Montcalme, to Wolfe’s surprise, would prefer to retire and return to France rather than be leading the French troops in Quebec. There are quite a few humerous interactions between these very different individuals during the opening scenes.
Despite the strong opening, the script, however, drags significantly in the middle, as Wolfe has tedious flashbacks about his relationship with his mother. This takes away from the action of the narrative and having Montcalme switch into the role of Wolfe’s mother just seems odd.
Romantini also directs this production and his artistic choices are sometimes a bit unclear. At the beginning of the play, Wolfe is portrayed as a clown. While this is humorous and fun to watch, it undercuts the serious allegations made later in the piece that Wolfe might be a war criminal. The blocking of the piece was also a little muddled. A cliff edge was initially established in the front row but then moved around the stage.
It is very difficult to direct and star in a theatrical production and these flaws can be attributed to Romantini wearing the hats of performer and director simultaneously. In spite of these failings, there is still much to like about this show. The duo has good sense of comedic timing and Lemire’s premise is an interesting one ripe with theatrical possibilities. With a few edits to the script and an outside eye to guide the performances Inseparable could be developed into a great show.
The second play I attended at Summer Fling was Swimming in the Shallows by Adam Bock. This is a play about relationships and the failures of communication. Donna (Margo MacDonald) and Carla Carla (Manon St. Jules) a lesbian couple are looking to legalize their relationship but both are nervous about this commitment. Nick (Simon Bradshaw) is a gay man who is having difficulty finding a lasting relationship. Following a string of meaningless sexual encounters he becomes fascinated with a mako shark (Mark Ouimet). The final relationship examined is a heterosexual married couple Bob (Richard Gelinas) and Barb (Maureen Smith). Barb has become obsessed with trying to rid her life of possessions after reading about the practices of budhist monks. Bob is insensitive to her desires.
Bock’s script in many ways is trivial and banal. These themes (fear of commitment, the search for true love, and the importance of communication) are already well worn and Bock has little new insight to offer about them. In spite of the weaknesses of the script, there are some fine performances in Arts Court’s version. Richard Gellinas, Maureen Smith, and Simon Bradshaw are very engaging and carry the show. The dance sequences and a revelatory moment between Nick and the Shark make this production worth seeing. For more information on show times and performance dates click here.