Friday, July 9, 2010

Comedy = Tragedy + Time

I couldn't help but think of that theatre cliche after seeing Brad Fraser's True Love Lies at Monkey Wrench Collective tonight.

It's an urbane drama in which a monkey wrench (sorry) is thrown into the lives of a seemingly normal family, wreaking all sorts of havoc and revealing "side B". Dysfunctional families have since ancient times been fodder for playwrights, and while it's the universality of the relationships that makes such stories archetypal, the best re-tellings echo the Zeitgeist, and there could hardly be one more evocative of our era than this one (though I haven't yet seen the new film The Kids are Alright which some critics are saying hits the bullseye).

As the boomers' kids come of age, they're finding out all sorts of things about the youthful indiscretions and proclivities of their parents at the same time they're discovering themselves, trying things out and making their own life decisions.

It isn't always a pretty picture.

That's the basic premise for True Love Lies (I won't spoil its many surprises by providing a plot synopsis), and it provides ample space for author Fraser to explore the extremes of family behavior when confronted with the truth--extremes that have potentially tragic consequences.

While there is no "happy ending" for these characters, by the end of the play they do achieve a kind of equilibrium, which places the story solidly in the "comedy" column, proving (I guess) my title equation.

Luckily, we don't have to wait until the end to find that out: the bitingly funny dialogue punctuates each twist and turn of plot from almost the moment the play begins. But it's character-driven humor--not appliqued punchlines--that is fresh and insightful. The audience departed from the theatre wounded and bleeding from hilarious indictments hurled (mostly) by the two young characters, whose observations about their parents, their peers and even themselves were shocking-but-true.

This, the fourth Monkey Wrench Collective production, is the most accessible and demonstrates that its founders aren't wedded to any single style or subject matter as long as it is thought-provoking. True Love Lies certainly is that, but it's also the first comedy the new Monkey Wrench has produced (albeit one containing adult language and brief nudity).

Director Dave Barton's staging is fluid, sensible and copes well with creating multiple locations within the confines of the small performance space. It's also very well-cast and acted convincingly by its five performers.
Photo by Will Blakely: Jill Cary Martin and Anthony B. Cohen

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