May 2005

Adult Entertainment
Written by George F. Walker Directed by Ken Gass
May 11 – June 19, 2005 Factory Theatre Toronto

Ken Gass makes a strong directorial point before the play begins. The lighting in the house and on the open stage is about the same, and there is a kind of generic rock blues playing quite loud in the whole space. The curtain, so to speak, is indicated by a change in the music to Bob Dylan doing a chorus of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. Then house and stage go dark. We were all in this together before the play started and we are in this together now as the action is about to begin.

What we are in together is a moral no man’s land, a neutral zone, a generic pink and gray floral decorated suburban motel where you can hide out and make a deal to stage the scheme of your choice. In a play entitled Adult Entertainment you get what you expect: sex and violence, lies and cover-ups, deceit and drunkenness, and enough pain to fuel two potential suicides, a knifing, a homicide, and a confession of true love. This is a very funny play that had the audience laughing all the way through. Why? Because everything goes wrong and the plotters wind up tripping over their own shoelaces. It’s also touching, because when a character falls and is reduced to being just a human in pain, another character is there to offer real touching, genuine sympathy. If the production has a fault it is that there is too much hysterical Punch and Judy yelling and head bashing in the mix for my taste.

Jane Spidell, Ron White

Jane Spidell (Jayne), as ever riveting when she is angry, plays the cynical lawyer trying to get it fixed so her client’s crime is blamed on her client’s ‘no-good’ boy friend. The fixer is, Max, a married detective who loves his wife but wants very much to resume the easygoing sex hook-up he had with Jayne six months ago. Ron White plays Max with the unflappable grace of a man who wants only one thing –sex – and has the personality of a duck’s back for dealing with Jayne as her contempt for herself spills onto him for being ‘a hollow man with a badge.’

Max’s partner-in-crime cop is Donnie, a weak-willed, suicidal drunk, addicted to hookers, played by David Ferris who gives a seamless performance as he fluctuates among sixteen shades of pathetic, botching the ‘fix’, and inviting his estranged wife Pam to the motel to have a reconciliation or to help him commit suicide. Donnie greets his wife with this perfectly mindless line: ”You look like a hooker –– no offense.” Linda Prystawska plays Pam as a kind of warm, innocent who can take anything as long as she can be loved. She tells Donnie –– “The man I loved has gone missing and sometimes I just want to die”. Being a dependent type, she is sweet but a bit heavy.

Shawn Kerwin’s set, on its way to becoming an icon in Canadian theatre, is accommodating and transparent, just like a motel room should be. The play relies not so much on effects of any kind (sound, lighting, costumes, props all serve well together) but on Walker’s biting, witty, script, and Gass’ crisp direction of his very good cast. Is it too much to hope that the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery inquiry, this country’s current ‘adult entertainment’ that is also playing out a drama of dreams of union gone rotten into secret deals that have gone awry, might end, like Walker’s play, on a note of love and reconciliation?

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report by
• •
Stanley Fefferman
for The Live Music Report

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