The 2005 graduating class at George Brown Theatre has really developed over the course of the year. The double bill of spring shows - J. M. Barrie 's Dear Brutus and John Dryden 's Marriage A La Mode , both comedies of relationships, the former bittersweet and the latter often bawdy - feature some nice performances and direction. The Barrie piece, like Peter Pan, has elements of fantasy, with a mysterious man ( Jeffrey Shortt ) inviting a group of people to his house for Midsummer Eve. In some ways the play's a riff on the forest scenes in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but here it's not necessarily fairy magic that changes the series of lovers. It's also a what-if tale in which characters explore alternate versions of their dissatisfied lives, only to discover that it's not easy to change a person's character.
Director Todd Hammond gives a nice sense of mystery to the opening act and some comedy to the third, along with a wonderfully moving final scene; too bad he can't do much with the mawkish period sentimentality of the middle section.
His ensemble is generally strong, with especially good work by Louis Adams as a failed, drunken painter and Alison Deon as his elegant, discontented wife and former model. There are also entertaining laughs involving a romantically shifting trio: Paul Kit , Lindsay McMahon and Jacqueline Pijper .
The Dryden production is less successful because one of its two plot lines - a serious one involving lost children, a rightful heir to the throne and near tragedy - is emotionally and dramatically flat.
But director Paul Lampert gets maximum mileage from the wit of a quartet of unfaithful, flirtatious lovers played deliciously by Adams, Deon, Eli Ham and Jayne Walling . The set-up alone suggests comedy; the couples are either married or engaged, and each man's mistress is the other man's partner. The standouts are Deon, whose perky character is obsessed with all things French, and Ham, who knows how to give the 17th-century language a clear and modern feel. See Continuing, page 88.