Dated Friends

FRIENDS, LOVERS, HUSBANDS by Nancy Phillips, music by Bob Ashley, directed by Jim Betts, with Lisa Horner, Mary McCandless.


FRIENDS, LOVERS, HUSBANDS by Nancy Phillips, music by Bob Ashley, directed by Jim Betts, with Lisa Horner, Mary McCandless and Claiff Le Jeune. Presented by Marlene Smith at Berkeley Street Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to June 1, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $38.50, Monday pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: N Rating: NNNNN

If you go to Friends, Lovers, Husbands, you can be excused for thinking yourself in a time warp. This is the sort of entertainment — lots of music, text thematically rather than narratively driven — that was standard at Toronto supper clubs like Old Angelo’s in the 60s and 70s. Only it’s not nearly as good or as clever.

A woman (Mary McCandless) who’s fixated on sonnets and carousels considers remarrying the man she divorced 40 years before. She remembers her earlier life with the help of her younger self (Lisa Horner) and a guy (Cliff Le Jeune) who stands in for all the men she’s known.

Nancy Phillips’s unstructured writing (much of it quite bad poetry, with simple, clunky rhymes in the song lyrics as well as the spoken sections) develops none of the characters and leads to a predictable finish. Bob Ashley’s tunes could pass for cocktail-lounge background music.

A strong production might make something even of all this, but director Jim Betts underlines none of the potential complexities in the figures’ combination of love, lust and loneliness. Le Jeune hardly makes an impression, while McCandless can style a song but fails to put a stamp on her character.

Horner generates the only energy in the production. Her musical numbers — about settling for the next best thing, being a bad girl and being drawn to losers — are the show’s only highlights.

Please, someone, give this talented woman better material. jonkap@nowtoronto.com

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