Wednesday, 26 October 2011

SPEAK NOW: It brings angst and oomph, but 'Walls' has little to say

THE TIES THAT BIND: Hunt, Bell and Murray share a scene.

As he showed with this year’s Confessions, playwright David Tulloch has a propensity for exploring fractured relationships and human fallibility in his work. He maintains this artistic arc with his latest, If Walls Could Talk, a flawed but unmistakably interesting comedy-drama. Though this time around Tulloch manages to deliver material that’s more enjoyable and occasionally thought-provoking than anything he has ever produced, Walls is not the most meaningful or enlightening piece of theatre doing commercial business in city Kingston.

In addition to the attractive set design, the best thing about the play is Rosie Murray, who steals the spotlight with her hilarious turn as a nosy and boisterous housekeeper who gets caught up in the romantic entanglements of her superiors. It’s not just her vast theatrical experience and bag of tricks that Murray brings to the portrayal; on stage, she appears to genuinely lose herself in the amusing performance. The audience, loving her mix of silly and sexy, eagerly goes along for the ride.

As the story goes, Cindy (Murray) is the long-serving helper of the Baileys, a close-knit middle-aged couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Frustrated housewife Jennifer (Denise Hunt) is madly in love with husband Melvin (Winston Bell, engaging) but is not too dickmatized to realize that he might be slipping it to Megan (Stephanie Hazle), the girl at the office who gives new meaning to man-eater. But is that all Melvin’s been up behind her back? Boy, if walls could talk.

With such a fascinating premise, one expects moments of revelation and head-nodding insight, but in many instances Tulloch chooses to temper the work’s sobering issues with cheap humour, and this works against the production. A sturdy balance between light and heavy would have served to greatly improve the results. At the same time, a sub-plot involving fertility woes, open marriage and surrogacy goes nowhere. And a twist meant to account for much of the play’s action falls flat. Damian Shaw makes a surprise appearance, but in a thankless role.

The show’s pace frequently hits a lull, but occasionally a fun and engaging quality emerges as the story deepens. In the end, If Walls Could Talk has ample vigour and aims for freshness, but it fails to engage meaningfully with the controversial and social notions it seeks to explore. Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

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1 comment:

  1. Gift for Mom gets B+ and this gets B-?

    What standards are used here? Was this done by the same critic who did GFM's review.