Review by Mille Clark
On a warm summer evening, there is no finer time to stroll around the fragrant, sleepy streets of Victoria by the Sea. And then, to end one’s wanders in happy suspense-of-disbelief at the Victoria Playhouse. On even a Tuesday night the theatre is filled. Once the audience’s murmur is hushed and the lights dimmed, a languid anticipation descends over the crowd.
The Love List by Norm Foster opens to a typically decorated bachelor apartment. Immediately, the use of lighting and space draws the audience into this intimate setting. The stage is divided into a foreground, in which all the dressings of a living room are affixed, and just behind the slats of the living room wall, an apartment building hallway is visible. These two locations become important, as the play unfolds. The living room houses the inner life of the characters; their fantasies, neurosis, and desires, while the hallway serves as an intermediary space—a window into outer ‘reality’ where these desires and neurosis are ultimately challenged.
At first glace, The Love List is sweet, entertaining, and superficially insightful; precisely what one would hope for in an evening’s distraction. However, the play is so fanciful and absurd, that the question begs to be asked; “what is this play really about?” A confirmed bachelor, Bill, (played by Erskine Smith) and his best friend Leon (played by Colm Magner) with the help of an unseen mysterious gypsy, draw up a list of the ten qualities they would wish from an ideal mate. And voila! Dressed in a garish hue of pink, she manifests. What ensues is the classic struggle of man dealing with his desires fulfilled and the consequences of acting “god.” Though maintaining the veneer of light entertainment throughout, The Love List manages to explore some of love’s perplexing quandaries. Can we deal with what we want when we’ve got it? Do we claim to crave love when really what we crave is the projection of our fantasies and a balm to our neurosis? Does the union of love exist in the space between two souls, or does it always necessarily reside alone in the consciousness of the lover? And is it imperfection that batters down the wall of concocted desires, and that ultimately lets love through? Perhaps in the end love’s great gift is not the fulfillment of one’s desires. Perhaps love’s offering lies in the abandonment of the human impulse to control and through this, the surprising revelation that what you need is relentlessly available—it is there in the imperfections.
Erskine Smith, as the driving force behind The Victoria Playhouse, is a veritable Island treasure. His lightness of heart shines through all their productions. His portrayal of Bill was goofy and endearing. Mr. Smith certainly knows how to act with his whole body and how to delight an audience with almost charicatural expressiveness. Colm Magner as Leon played it somewhat straighter. His was a darker, more ironic character, whose inner decency shone through at pivotal points. The real force on stage was Johanna Nutter who, in a host of hot-pink ensembles, managed to bring the three actors into a visceral relationship, demanding raw interaction and inciting dramatic tensions and releases. The direction by Marlane O’Brien was good, and there is no doubt that in the latter days of its run, this will be a very elegant production.
Truly there is no more enjoyable way to spend a summer evening, than breathing in the thick salty air of Victoria-by-the Sea while taking in a well-crafted performance at The Victoria Playhouse.