Review by Linda Wigmore
Enemies, a theatrical improv soap opera, at the Arts Guild, ran over three consecutive Mondays in August. Co-created and co-produced by Laurie Murphy and Jason Rogerson, Enemies had its first three-week run last year. Sean McQuaid directed both summers. I didn’t see Enemies last year, but there was so much buzz around the performance of Graham Putnam in the first three episodes that I couldn’t wait to see it this year. I was also very excited about the new cast (Putnam was the only original cast member left). He was joined by theater veterans Rob MacDonald and Nancy McLure, as well as relative newcomers Carly Martin and Joey Weale.
McLure and MacDonald had their work cut out for them keeping up with the energy and unfailing commitment to character of the younger actors ( all three had dual roles). Putnam played Dr. Shelley Lugosi and his clone, Dolly. Martin played twins Britney and Drew McClintock, a bonkers porn star and a rookie cop, respectively. Weale was Lugosi’s lawyer/peon, Dwight Stanfield, and Charlie Angel. The cast was rounded out with McLure as Lady Cordelia de Montmorency, MacDonald as Reverend Ernest Gelding and Troy the blowup doll as himself.
In the beginning of Episode seven, Dr. Shelley Lugosi is in prison for the murder of his clone Dolly. The prison scenes are a delightful sendup of the Silence of the Lambs, with Putnam as Hannibal Lecter as Lugosi. He receives a visit from Drew McClintock, who is investigating a serial killer known only as Diana the Huntress. Lady Cordelia is in town to campaign for the reverend Ernest Gelding, founder and leader of the Presbycatholics, who is running for premier of PEI. She visits Shelley, an old school chum and sex partner, apparently, even though they haven’t seen each other since grade seven. The plot just twists and twists. Dolly is reanimated and he and Shelley have a sexual reunion. Charlie Angel, Lady C’s boytoy and secret agent, runs into Britney, who he used to make porn movies with. And in what was probably the most memorable scene of the entire three episodes, Dwight, finding himself alone with Troy, uses him as a stand-in for Lugosi. He then declares his admiration for Lugosi before impersonating Lugosi through Troy, who expresses his mutual love and appreciation of Dwight. Joey Weale as Dwight Stanfield as Troy as Graham Putnam as Shelley Lugosi as Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant. My head hurts.
Special appearances were also made by local scenesters such as David Weale, Andrew Sprague and Dylan Miller. These cameos allowed the creators to throw a serial killer into the mix without losing key players. It was pretty funny seeing these people invited up on stage only to be killed, although Sprague at least got to have a political debate with Gelding and Lugosi before being disposed of.
I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching improv. I haven’t seen anything like it since the tragic demise of Fourplay. Or maybe it was more like a Christopher Guest movie. The advantage of the Enemies format over theater sports-style improv is the chance for the performers to develop the characters over the course of the rehearsal period and throughout the play’s run. Character development was greatly aided by costumes, and in particular, the wigs worn by Britney, Charlie and Lugosi, to great effect. The wigs were practically characters themselves. Credit for costumes and wigs goes to Emily Hanlin, and if she doesn’t get a freakin’ Tony or something, there’s no justice in the world.
The sets were simple but effective. Before the play even began I had a good idea that I was in for a treat after checking out the programs by Laura O’Brien, with additional graphics by Chloe Cork, containing ads for Cordy’s Cordial ( do you like bright red drinks that #?@* you up?) and Dr. Shelley Labs (if you’ve got something in your sockets, you can hock it at: www.eyeballsbegone.com). I mean, when’s the last time you read a review of a program?
I’m not sure exactly how one directs an improv soap opera, but whatever Sean McQuaid did, it worked and he is to be commended for it. Several of the characters had theme songs which introduced them each time they came on stage. Mildly amusing at first, this soon grew annoying and distracting, in several instances noticeably breaking the performer’s concentration. A minor quibble.
There were great moments too numerous to mention. I will mention a favorite one for each actor: Lady Cordelia, revealing her true emotional depth and sexual proclivity, bites her knuckle upon the death of Sprague and wails “But he was so cute!” Britney, in her manic state, forced into small talk with Charlie Angel, pulls on the toes of her bright red tights until they stick out several inches from her feet, explaining, “It makes my legs look longer.” Dolly, coached by Dwight Stanfield to impersonate Lugosi at his annual Reconstructive surgery and Tupperware Party, falls down and explains, as he was coached to do, “Sorry, I am drunk or not feeling well.” Dwight, after losing his contact lens more than once in spite of the fact that he was wearing glasses, takes off his glasses, pokes his finger through the empty frame and admits, “I don’t really need these.” And the repressed Reverend Gelding finally exorcizes Troy, although modesty and obscenity laws prevent me from explaining how on these pages.
To conclude. If you can read this, and you like to laugh, watch for Enemies, episodes 4, 5 and 6, the lost episodes.