Review by Jonathan Stewart
Conjugal Rites is the new zany comedy playing in repertory at the Victoria Playhouse this summer. It's a frantic slapstick romp; the kind of fun theatre which Victoria is well known for. The plot follows the misadventures of two couples staying in adjoining rooms in a cheap hotel. Elaine (Norma Cameron) and David (Roddie Weatherbie) are celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary; while in the next room David's younger brother Stanley (Darcy Gorman) is experiencing his honey moon with his new bride the "ditzy" Jennifer (Annie VanEyk). The plot progresses as we discover David and Elaine's marriage is rocky while Stanley and Jennifer can't get enough of each other. Things start getting crazy when we discover Elaine has a secret, Jennifer is a marriage counselor, Stanley has a costume and David doesn't have a clue.
The performances by the actors are quite strong particularly Roddie Weatherbie who plays everything with an understated irony. Many Island actors have a huge and looming stage presence so Mr. Weatherbie's tempered but funny performance is refreshing. It also balances and plays nicely off of Darcy Gorman's energetic and physical acting. The only time it doesn't always work is when David is arguing with Elaine. Both of these characters give some scathing and sarcastic exchanges but Elaine comes off as shrewish while one just feels sorry for David because of his hang dog expression and quiet delivery. Miss VanEyk is also quite excellent switching between her character's polar opposites of ditzy excitement and marriage counselor know all. Other great things in this play include the hilarious act openings which feature the two couples enacting identical movement and dialogue in their separate rooms. The set and lighting are both extremely detailed and really do give the impression of a cheap hotel.
The only weak parts of the script are some extended dialogue on the meaning of relationships, which sometimes embrace too many clichés and slow the energy of the play. And the character of Elaine can seem moody and doesn't always have motivation for her lashing out at the other characters. Over all Conjugal Rites is a wonderful play and is the first script from Island actress and director Pam Stevenson. Hopefully we can look forward to many more.