PLAY MURDER written and directed by Sky Gilbert, with Jason Cadieux, Marc Gushuliak, Ann Holloway, Jane Johanson, Ellen-Ray Hennessy and Edward Roy. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to October 12, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $10-$25, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Who knew that breaking the fourth wall could be so much fun? Play Murder , which opens Buddies in Bad Times ' 25th anniversary season, is part whodunit, part riff on various sexual couplings and part postmodern send-up of theatrical conventions.
Writer/director Sky Gilbert 's script plays up the sensual relationship between 1930s torch singer Libby Holman ( Ellen-Ray Hennessy ) and her rich husband, Smith Reynolds ( Jason Cadieux ). Each has a streak of dangerous madness, and that might be part of the attraction between them. Add Libby's jealous lesbian lover, Louisa ( Jane Johanson ), and Smith's close, maybe "unnaturally" close, boyhood friend Ab ( Marc Gushuliak ) to the mix and there's trouble brewing.
After a first act hampered by opening-night nerves and some sluggishly paced direction, the second half explodes on Steve Lucas 's Titanic-sized set into a high-energy romp that tries to explain Smith's mysterious murder, with everyone - including the dead Smith - offering views on what happened.
The hypnotic Hennessy and Cadieux generate some smouldering chemistry, while Ann Holloway as Libby's faded diva of a drama coach and Edward Roy as the investigating policeman entertain with broad, comic portraits as they set the scene and intentionally deconstruct the theatrical framework, stepping in and out of stage reality. As characters and narrative fall apart, you might fall off your seat laughing.