Shadow Theatre: “The Liars”

Earlier this month, I took in a pay-what-you-can matinee at the Varscona Theatre. I know I don’t get out to as many plays as I’d like to, and on that Saturday, it was a great excuse to kill two birds with one stone, as I also got to pop into the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market.

Jocelyn Ahlf is one of my favourite on-stage talents, but in the last few years, has began presenting plays of her own creation. Space, at last summer’s Fringe, was an enjoyable, noncommittal romp, and even better, was Everybody Goes to Mitzi’s, the entertaining musical she co-wrote which capped the end on Teatro’s 2009 season. The Liars is her first play for Shadow Theatre:

“Audrey and Simon are invited to dinner with their best friends Gaby and Adam — whom they’re not even sure they really like. Before they know it, Gaby and Adam are dragged into a series of domestic disputes which grow ever more dissimilar and outrageous. But who is lying? So starts a comic journey into a place that no sane person should ever willingly go – someone else’s business.”

Along with others in the audience, I was able to relate to some of the awkward and almost passive-aggressive feelings experienced by Audrey and Simon. Still, for a play that I thought hinged so much on being able to empathize with the protagonists, I couldn’t help but finding myself being annoyed by Lora Brovold’s over-the-top portrayal of Audrey. She may have been trying to keep up with Gaby’s (Shannon Blanchet) frenetic breakdowns, but between the two women, I was emotionally overwhelmed. As a result, Andrew MacDonald-Smith’s relative sanity and calming presence as Simon was a welcome touchstone, and one that made me believe the too-neat engagement seemed forced – the audience wasn’t given much history into their relationship.

Still, though I didn’t enjoy this play as much as Ahlf’s previous work, The Liars had its moments (and clever one-liners that I wish I could remember). I look forward to Ahlf’s next work!

On an unrelated note – Northern Light Theatre announced its 2010-11 season, and I was delighted to see a new play by Leif Oleson-Cormack on the schedule! I attended high school and university with Leif – it’s always cool to see old friends succeed. Look for his play, Meat Puppet, January 21- February 6, 2011 at the Varscona.

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