SUDDEN DEATH by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman (Pyretic). See listing.
Times: January 6 and 12 at 7 pm, January 7 at 6:45 pm, January 10 at 5 pm, January 11 at 5:30 pm, January 13 at 2:30 pm. $12-$15. 416-966-1062. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
You won't find a more intense, riveting play than Sudden Death, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman's surreal, highly theatrical take on the life - and demise - of NHL enforcer John Kordic.
Set in the motel room on Kordic's last night, done up by designer Jenna McCutcheon to suggest an arena, the play relies on elements of hockey to tell its story: there are three periods, two macho, self-impressed commentators (Greg Gale and Andrew Shaver) and one of Canada's most famous hockey players.
Kordic (the commanding Tony Nappo, who, showing the hockey player's many sides, has never given a finer performance) is beset by his past as he looks toward his future. Caught between wanting a baby with his partner, Cindy (Melissa-Jane Shaw), and getting back into the NHL, he's at war with a trio of inner demons represented by his mother (Maria Vacratsis), his old coach (Layne Coleman) and that "great" player (Brett Donahue).
It's a night of battle, internal and external, with the coked-up, drunk, steroid-happy Kordic trying to sort out a life filled with pain, fear, emptiness, paternal rejection and a hope that tomorrow will be better.
The production, a big one for a festival like Next Stage, is sometimes rough around the edges, but Corbeil-Coleman and director Matthew MacKenzie engage us with a story that'll fascinate you like that explosive accident you know is going to happen but can't help watching.
There's not a weakness in the fine cast. Gale and Shaver are stereotyped figures, spouting bad jokes and cliches until the final scene. Vacratsis's mother can't stop needling Kordic for what he didn't accomplish, Coleman's coach, a surrogate father, pushes him with an insistence that Kordic "spank faster and harder," and Donahue's "aw, shucks" attitude never stops the legendary player he plays from finding the spotlight.
The scene between Shaw and Nappo is one of the work's finest, beginning with a sexy strip (choreographed by Monica Dottor) that leads into a tender, teasing, episode that suggests that Cindy and Kordic can succeed as a couple. It's a moment of respite in a production that's usually - and appropriately - played with the largeness and passion of an NHL playoff game.