JOHN AND BEATRICE by Carole Frechette, directed by Leah Cherniak (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To March 24. Pwyc-$32. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 70. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you're still recovering from Valentine's Day misery, then John and Beatrice is the play for you. Carole Frechette 's latest dark comedy looks at the consequences of believing in fairy tale romance.
High atop an abandoned building, a long-haired, attractive woman ( Caroline Cave ) waits for the right man to claim her.
Her name is Beatrice (Dante would approve), but it might as well be Rapunzel. Her latest potential Prince Charming, named John ( Rick Roberts ), rises to the three challenges she sets out for him only because he wants a promised reward.
Frechette, one of the country's best playwrights, has never opted for naturalism. Her allegorical plays, like Elisa's Skin and Helen's Necklace, are richly theatrical because her characters have strong psychological and political undercurrents.
John and Beatrice is less emotionally deep than those two works, but it's still smart, riffing on various fairy tales (including the Scheherazade story) and demonstrating how much we cling to narrative, both in life and at the theatre. Sifting through the play's lies and truths is one of the challenges.
The performers bring energy and skill to their roles. Cave moves from narcoleptic princess to disillusioned modern woman with a fascinating mixture of anger and humour, while Roberts, in the less developed role, delivers strong variations on the idea of the driven suitor. His storytelling and one scene of operatic gibberish are set pieces of bravura acting.
Under Leah Cherniak 's direction, Yannik Larivée 's skewed-perspective set, aided by Lesley Wilkinson 's lighting design, feels increasingly claustrophobic as the central story and characters get upturned.
This detail, like the play itself, is an experiment that's thoughtful and intimate but not completely successful.