DESCENT by Tom Walmsley, directed by Kate Lynch (Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). To November 19. $10-$30, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-504-7529. See Continuing, page 68. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Tom Walmsley's descent has skilful dialogue and characterizations but leaves us feeling puzzled rather than satisfied.
Two boozing friends, both named Randy, one a poet who scribbles on coasters and napkins (Brendan Murray) and the other a hedonist (Christopher Morris), pick up Susan (Deborah Hay) for a night of raw sex before she enters into a conservative marriage. As they're partying, they get a visit from Robinson (John Blackwood) and his partner, James (Paul Fauteux).
Susan, who keeps blacking out, is attractive to all four men, regardless of their sexual orientation. It's all very funny, with some wonderfully goofy world views and fine performances under Kate Lynch's direction.
In the second act, set several years later in a desecrated church, the pace is slower and things have darkened considerably.
The Randys, in a deeper alcoholic stupor, slur their speech more, and everyone muses on the existence of God. In a series of encounters, sermons and soliloquies, the characters question what they are doing , what they believe in and whether faith is useful or not.
There's an added savagery to the comedy here, and I wish the script had articulated that threatening essence more clearly.
The actors deliver some powerful work here, especially Hay as the dipsomaniacal Susan, whose bitterness reaches an acid level, and Fauteux as the insecure low man in this social and sexual pecking order who climbs higher by the end.
Morris and Murray manage to be both an entertaining and off-putting Mutt-and-Jeff team, while Blackwood, by his suggestive tone, succeeds in turning Robinson from a figure of formidable power to a ghostly presence.