IN THE WINGS adapted by Nicky Guadagni from Carole Corbeil's novel, directed by Layne Coleman, with David Fox, Guadagni, Michael Healey, Deborah Hay, John Jarvis, Brooke Johnson, Sarah McDonald and Jonathan Watton. Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to December 8, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
it's got a great opening scene, a terrific cast and plenty of energy, but in the end In The Wings doesn't fly.Nicky Guadagni's adaptation of the late Carole Corbeil's acclaimed book about actors putting on Hamlet suffers from that dreaded adaptation curse. It's too reverential. And those involved with the show -- Guadagni was a close friend of Corbeil's, director Layne Coleman was her husband and played Hamlet in a stripped-down Theatre Passe Muraille production similar to the one depicted in the book -- are too close to see it.
Watching this three-hour backstage soap opera, you can hear the words: "Cut it? But I love that scene!"
The resulting script has a line-by-line polish, especially in the entertaining if episodic first act, where we meet Corbeil's colourful characters, including an aging female actor (Brooke Johnson), a young actor with a history (Jonathan Watton, in over his head), a passionate director (John Jarvis in the play's single flawless performance) and a bumbling theatre critic (Michael Healey).
Corbeil's people love to hear themselves talk, and there's affection and truth in what they say. By the end of that first act, though, you wonder what it all adds up to. By the messy second act, you're really confused.
Sure, themes of reconciliation with the past (à la Hamlet) are present, as well as some thoughtful lines about women and sex, but little feels organic.
For all its flabbiness, there are gaps. I'd lose the songs, scenes with newspaper editors and one self-indulgent scene about a movie-of-the-week, and add more stuff about two mysterious younger women played by Deborah Hay and Sarah MacDonald.
Obviously it's full of potential. But in its present form In The Wings is still in the workshop stage.