This Keay Fits

the edible woman by Margaret Atwood, adapted by Dave Carley, directed by Timothy Bond, with Jillian Fargey, Lynne Cormack, Darren.


the edible woman by Margaret Atwood, adapted by Dave Carley, directed by Timothy Bond, with Jillian Fargey, Lynne Cormack, Darren Keay, Alec McClure, Michael Rubenfeld, Tara Samuel and Todd Talbot. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to March 16, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$75, limited Monday pwyc and same-day half-price rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN

Rating: NNN

staging dave carley’s adapta-tion of Margaret Atwood’s 1969 novel The Edible Woman reeks of good marketing. Atwood’s a huge draw, of course, so there’s already a built-in audience, a la Mamma Mia! and the Disney musicals. And high school students studying the book can pack out those matinees.Instant hit, right? Not so fast.

Atwood’s clever, ironic story about the emotional and physical deterioration of Marian McAlpin (Jillian Fargey) works on the page but not the stage, at least in this strange production directed by Timothy Bond.

Carley successfully adapted the book for radio in 1996, but what works on radio — including Marian’s intimate narration — feels precious and cumbersome onstage.

Carley’s discovered some ways to show, rather than tell, the story. In the first act, Marian moves furniture around the stage, signalling her power and control in the second, as she loses that control, and her appetite, the furniture’s moved around for her.

The sexual politics of the era — the show, like the novel, is set in the mid-60s, when women were expected to give up jobs after getting married — are fascinating to see played out. But the tone is all sunny and colourful, a mood that’s reflected in Charlotte Dean’s playful retro designs and the TV sitcom feel of much of the direction.

Marian’s a difficult role to pull off, an introvert in the extrovert medium of the stage. Fargey hits just one note — kind of like Mary Richards’s controlled hysteria — but I’m not sure anyone could make it work.

Those around her succeed better, especially Darren Keay as perpetual grad student Duncan. Boyish and unkempt, he’s the only relaxed soul. His scenes with Fargey have true warmth and humour.

He’s also part of one of the play’s few bold scenes. When Marian’s getting dolled up to attend her lawyer fiance’s party, Keay steps in to play a campy hairdresser. This tiny scene works on many levels. Is Duncan gay? Is he part of Marian’s imagination?

Though it’s entertaining enough, The Edible Woman needs more of this theatricality to become a legit play.theatre reviews

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