Friday, April 04, 2008

Beyond Bizarre - Beyond Mozambique - Theatre Review

Beyond Mozambique - Factory Theatre, Toronto, ON
by George F. Walker, directed by Ken Gass

6 people escaping secrets from the past hide out at a home in Mozambique as the rebels start encroaching from the jungle. Sounds like an interesting premise, but as everyone starts going crazy, it gets just a bit too bizarre for me. There's a porn queen, a shamed Mountie, a nazi doctor and his delusioned aristocratic wife, a sexually frustrated priest and a dumb gigolo. It's like a typical episode of Survivor but with soliloquy's.

Written by prominent Canadian playwright George F. Walker, it was originally written in 1974 and now revived this season at The Factory Theatre, one of the reliably good mid-sized theatres (think Toronto's Off-Broadway stuff) that specializes in Canadian plays.

I've never actually seen any of Walkers plays, so I don't know any of the history or anything to compare it to, but the play, more absurd dark comedy than black comedy, just got more and more bizarre. While the message and the methods might have been revolutionary at the time, I found the play a bit trying and exhausting, and it weren't for Dmitri Chepovetsky's (Top Gun The Musical (which was genius by the way!)) entertaining performance as the gigolo turned servant, Sarah Orenstein's deluded wife or Tara Nicodemo's porn star, I would have written off this piece that at times, made me think it's trying to say the same thing as Michael Haneke's Funny Games (which isn't so funny).

Joe Cobden also does a wonderful performance as the timid priest whose desires for drugs and boys comes out as their time spent in the jungle lengthens.

Characters say things to shock as comedic bits, and some overacting (all to get a laugh, which I guess worked, but cartoonized their roles) from Richard Zeppieri as the Mountie protection made me think they were trying too hard to justify this revival, though the "shock" ending was a nice touch that sort of justified most of the play.

On a side note, it didn't help that Oliver Becker as the Italian Nazi doctor reminded me of The Simpsons' Dan Castellaneta and I kept waiting for a "doh" to come out of Becker's mouth.

In the end, I probably just didn't get it, or I did and was underwhelmed by something that now seems to be cliched (the slow devolvement into madness in the jungle and the unsuccessful attempts to escape ones past) to be of much interest. Maybe I've just lost interest in "intellectual" plays (because I think I will need to see a musical to cleanse myself now) but I'd like for someone to explain this play to me, just to see if I did get it or not.

Beyond Mozambique - ** (2 out of 5)

Here is Toronto Stars review (***/4)

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