Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Body Politic - Flesh and The Ugly One - Play Reviews

Flesh and Other Fragments of Love - Tarragon Theatre MainStage - Toronto, ON - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière, Translated by Linda Gaboriau, Directed by Richard Rose
Runs until Feb. 16th 2014

The Ugly One - Tarragon Theatre Extra Space - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Marius von Mayenburg, Translated by Maja Zade, Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Runs until Feb. 16th 2014


Flesh and Other Fragments of Love has an intriguing concept and a beautiful set up as a play, but while there is a poetic flow to the language, it never quite pieces it altogether. The play follows a married couple on an Irish holiday, trying to rekindle their romance, when they discover a dead woman on the beach. Tons of possibilities, and the plays eventually leads to it, particularly when the dead woman comes alive to recite poetic speeches that recount her tragic death and life. The tone however is an odd match that never quite stirs the plays central heart.


With muted reactions and a blasé attitude, the couple Pierre (Blair Williams) and Simone (Maria del Mar) discover the dead body and immediately go back to quibble about their own relationship problems. Former free-spirits, the melodramatic Simone has become a nagging wife and mother while Pierre thinks he can be beyond the suburban rut they've fallen into. Meanwhile, the dead girl is still laying there wrapped in seaweed and the play begins to pulse when she slowly rolls over and intrudes and interjects the couple, slowly goading them with their own problems while revealing her own story. We discover the dead girl is a local Irish girl Mary and Nicole Underhay breathes wondrous life into her words and her dead body. When Blair Williams steps into the centre of stones Mary has been laying upon, his Pierre turns into Mary's paramour and Williams' chemistry with Underhay shows exactly why Pierre and Simone were never meant to be.


On the other side of Tarragon Theatre in the Extra Space, a remount of The Ugly One has changed the extra space into a board room of sorts, with audience members sitting on both sides of the table. Under a harsh and seductive lighting design (by Jason Hand), the weird and absurd, but highly entertaining and enthralling play by Marius von Mayenburg, bursts into the room and basically sticks their face into the audience with full force.

When Lette (a wonderfully game David Jansen) finally realizes for the first time that he is actually ugly, after his boss (Hardee T. Lineham) disallows him to present his own electronic plug creation at a conference, Lette decides to undergo face surgery and much to his wife's delight (Naomi Wright), he turns out to be unimaginably beautiful post-operation. Life completely changes for Lette, whose professional and sexual life rapidly rises, all while his former assistant Karlmann (Jesse Aaron Dwyre) gets thrown to the side for the newest beauty. Throw in a sex-crazed septuagenarian business woman with a fey son who are both in love with Lette's face, and the original surgeon who manages to capitalize on his latest creation, and things start getting out of control when people begin wanting to look like the new Lette, all while Lette wonders who he really is.


Ashlie Corcoran beautifully directs the very odd and fast-paced play with aplomb, with instantaneous scene changes that are as smooth as Lette's new face, while the impressive cast shifts from the various characters and tonal shifts that adds to the absurd humour to the piece. With nice touches such as apples constantly used as props, as well as sound and folly effects (by John Gzowski and cast), The Ugly One is a beautifully well-put-together production that zips by as the weirdness and nonsense of the play ramps up while the allegories layer upon each other like the bandages that first covered Lette's ugly face.

Photos of Flesh and Fragments of Love by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photos of The Ugly One by Bronwen Sharp
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