Thursday, 7 August 2014

BROTHERS AND SISTERS: High drama, dark secrets collide in Funny Kind 'A Love

BEFORE THE FALL: Deer, Wilson, and Campbell make merry. Below, Davis and Deer play coy.

"You always hurt the ones you love; the ones you shouldn't hurt at all." Blue Valentine

The surprise birthday celebration caught Buck completely off guard, but he couldn't have asked for a more touching family moment complete with cake, wine, some Luther Vandross in the background, and a round of toasts and roasts from his two favourite people in the world: wife Wendy and brother Carlyle. Nothing could possibly ruin such a gloriously merry occasion. Until, that is, Carlyle overcome by guilt, shatters the veneer of togetherness with a love-triangle revelation so jolting it rocks Buck to the core and forever changes life as they all know it.

So begins Funny Kind 'A Love (Patrick Brown's latest offering), setting the stage for a thought-provoking and mildly scandalous sequence of events to follow and a sturdy exploration of honour, betrayal, familial relationships and the hefty price tag that often comes with bad choices. 

Signalling a slight departure for the prolific playwright, the play, though at times melodramatic, effectively fuses intense drama, occasionally humorous dialogue and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

On the surface, Buck (Glen Campbell) and Wendy (Sakina Deer) come across as a close-knit well-to-do couple (the kind you'd see sharing a cone at Devon House). So you can imagine Buck's fury upon learning that his wife and brother had been carrying on an affair behind his back all along and the bun in her oven might not be his! Things only grow more interesting with the arrival of Wendy's flippant and "clito-centric" baby sis Josephine (Camille Davis), who just so happens to be Carlyle's (Courtney Wilson) estranged wife. (I know, right? Paging Jerry Springer.)

Brown aims for a fresh spin on the age-old plot point of relationship dynamics in a domestic setting (most of the action unfolds in Buck and Wendy's stylish living quarters). And for the most part, he yields impressive results, creating a microcosmic world where broken people fall in love/lust, hurt each other and find themselves transformed by regret and the power of forgiveness.

If the characters here reflect any stereotypical traces, the top-notch cast fleshes them out. While Campbell musters the dignity and masculine ease required to make his Buck authentic, Deer is appealing as the apple-of-his-eye wifey whose neuroses emerge soon enough to cast her in a whole new light. Davis hardly ever disappoints and her superfunny barfly portrait of the liquored-up "I'm-not-wife-material" Josephine (though bordering on caricature) is one of the year's unforgettable creations. The real revelation among the four-member cast, however, is Wilson, who plays Carlyle with just the right blend of passion and restraint. It's a knockout portrayal.

"Everyone gets what they deserve eventually," Josephine philosophizes in Act II (by far the stronger half, which plays up the show's sensible set design and apt lighting). And it's an utterance that rings devastatingly true for everyone involved in this sordid affair that smacks of Days-Of-Our-Lives-type contrivance but stays high in entertainment value. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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