BEYOND MOZAMBIQUE By George F. Walker, directed by Ken Gass (Factory, 125 Bathurst). To May 4. Pwyc-$36. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Set in an African jungle where subversives, smugglers and hacked-off body parts are hidden among the trees, George F. Walker’s Beyond Mozambique looks at six characters believing furiously in fantasies that give their lives meaning.
Rocco (Oliver Becker), a doctor who explores the mysteries of existence, and his wife, Olga (Sarah Orenstein), who sees herself as a Chekhov character, act as not-always-happy hosts to a randy, sadistic corporal (Richard Zeppieri), a porn actor (Tara Nicodemo) and a gangly priest (Joe Cobden) with a dependence problem.
Oh, then there’s Tomas (Dmitry Chepovetsky), the couple’s servant, who plays Igor to Rocco’s Frankenstein. Yes, the good doctor seems to be conducting that kind of experimentation off in the jungle.
This early piece by Walker has all the machine-gun wit but not yet the fine tuning of character that the playwright brings to his later scripts. Still with its nods to various B-movie genres – including jungle adventure, horror film, bad-girl noir – it always entertains, especially when it’s done with as much gusto as this cast and director Ken Gass provide.
This is the kind of play that must blend the gore of Grand Guignol and the elegance of Noel Coward, and where the outrageous acts and statements must be grounded in some real emotion.
Thus, when Olga is having an elegant breakfast, she’s perfectly justified in saying to her servant, “Change your bandage, Tomas – you’re bleeding on the croissants,” and she means it sincerely.
By the time you read this review, the production will likely have become smoother, without last weekend’s occasional dropped line and technical problem.
And while all the actors understand the insane truths that inspire their characters, the standouts are Zeppieri, who hits the right manic note as the malarially impaired corporal, and Cobden, who looks like an escapee from a Dickens novel and whose physical comedy is as strong as his handling of the text.