by Lennie MacPherson
This year marked a third run for Enemies, perhaps the most original theatre being performed in Charlottetown in recent years. Since its conception, the cast and company have seen a few changes in personnel, but the vision has remained true—that is, a continuing story of equal parts passion and absurdity, told through an odd cast of characters, in the format of live improv soap opera. Certainly, with such original performance comes growing pains, but this year, the production seems to have found a fine balance between high quality performance and the excitement of the unexpected.
The storyline for Enemies is a somewhat malleable collection of plot points, which the actors had to connect through improvised dialogue and action, and while navigating a barrage of props, improv games and other variables thrown at them. Where improv often suffers in acting for the sake of the joke, the performers in Enemies showed commendable poise and commitment to character. And the few times the actors did happen to break face, it was to the delight of the audience—perhaps bringing a little honesty to the scene and reminding us that these were indeed unscripted lines.
Rob MacDonald directed the show for the first time, and his experience kept it fresh and challenging. On stage, in the role of the southern born bounty hunter Bubba Fett, he was a commanding veteran, sure to take advantage of any opportunity for an audience pleasing line or gesture, but also generously opening the floor and setting up other actors with assists reminiscent of Magic Johnson.
Graham Putnam has reached a point in acting that his mere presence on stage cracks up an audience, but he doesn't rest on his physical comic laurels, offering possibly the wittiest and sharpest one-liners of the run. His portrayal of Kenny, a lovable young clone, was an audience favorite, garnering many warm “awww”s of adoration from the crowd. Patti Larsen, with probably the most difficult task of being armless through most of the run, was unflinching in keeping character. And though Butch, one of the twins she played, was half in the bag most of the time, her roles provided a necessary straight character, balancing off and focusing the sillier characters.
Joey Weale's acting seemed effortless and his wit and timing were impeccable. His characters, the devoutly Christian Gabe and the delightfully unlikable Ludwig, were impressively well developed, and his comic mind radiated. The intelligence and creativity that he brought to the dialogue was offset nicely by Ludwig's awkward cursing. Carly Martin charmed the audience with a combination of smart rhetoric and an endearing oddness. She combined subtle humor with over the top nuttiness. Her role as the psychic Britney added an unmistakable mood and comic element to the show that separates it from most other productions.
In this vein, thankfully, the direction was confident enough to allow for the kind of laughs that come from awkward pauses and uncomfortable moments, rather than just slick and predictable gags. It is heartening to see a show that doesn't simply conform to a given target audience, but rather finds its own niche and trusts that followers will seek it out. To the delight of repeat viewers, Enemies indulged this year in addictive running jokes, and even developed a catch phrase which could be heard randomly in conversations around Charlottetown in an attempted southern accent: “noggin wolloper...” Keep making original theatre on PEI.