CAPTURE ME written and directed by Judith Thompson, with Randi Helmers, Tom McCamus, Nancy Palk, Chick Reid and Maurice Dean Wint. Presented by the Tarragon (30 Bridgman). Runs to February 8, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $26-$32, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: N
Bare minimum, you expect one of our premier playwrights to have an ear for dialogue and diction. But the language in Capture Me is so wooden (when was the last time you heard the word "abashed" out loud?) that you have to look twice at the playwright's name: Judith Thompson . Yes, the woman who once defined gritty urban life on Toronto stages has produced an embarrassing mix of movie-of-the-week pap (teacher gets stalked) and bleeding heart liberal anxiety (Arabs aren't terrorists!).
One character says, "I cannot fold you into my life like egg yolks into sugar," and it's an image that comes out of nowhere. This line might have fit in Thompson's earlier play, Perfect Pie, because at least that mess involved baked goods.
But how do eggs and sugar fit into this script about Jerry Joy ( Randi Helmers ), a Caucasian kindergarten teacher who's looking for her birth mom ( Nancy Palk ) while getting hot for one of her students' fathers ( Maurice Dean Wint ) and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband ( Tom McCamus )?
Thompson's characters don't talk with each other, they talk at each other in quasi-poetic monologues. And do we really need to hear about someone's farting habits?
The piece is full of loose threads that are exhausting to follow. Jerry Joy's Chinese upbringing is glossed over, as is her strict religious background - one of the play's few intriguing themes.
Mental illness, urban youth and one ridiculous monologue about a volcano round out this script that wouldn't have made it past most theatres' playwright units. Thompson also directs, ensuring that any problems in Capture Me aren't captured.