At the beginning of a Chorus of Disapproval, the shy, unassuming Guy Jones (David Storch) is a holy innocent. By its end, he's taken everybody to hell.Set during the rehearsals of a small-town amateur British company's production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, Alan Ayckbourn's clever script juxtaposes the amoral events of Gay's work against the increasingly tangled lives of the actors. Guy bumbles his way into the play's lead role, all the while attracting several lustful women and their financially greedy husbands.
Ayckbourn counterpoints the laughs with a sense that this community is emotionally empty and needy, notably in the loveless marriage between bustling director Dafydd (Ted Dykstra) and the quietly desperate Hannah (Susan Coyne), who plays the romantic Polly in The Beggar's Opera. The growing feelings between Guy and Hannah are this show's strongest point. The three actors give resonance to the awkward triangle that develops, and a true sadness lurks beneath the married couple's public front.
The Soulpepper production falters, though, in Albert Schultz's direction, which fails to play up the script's humour that balances the emotions underneath. A talented cast -- including Nancy Palk, Oliver Dennis and Jim Warren -- offers some good comic cameos. Too often, though, their work is isolated, for Schultz hasn't created a sufficiently rich dramatic context. As a result, this comedy with a sour centre lacks theatrical tang.