THE MOTHER'S SAINT, written and directed by Edward Roy, with Anne Anglin, Tess Benger, Terrence Bryant, Greg Campbell, Michael Copeman, Steve Cumyn and Erin McMurtry. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille and Topological Theatre at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to March 12, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $19-$28, Sunday pwyc. 504-7529. Rating: N
Edward Roy's The Mother's Saint is being called a murder mystery. It is. It's murder sitting in the audience for two and a half hours. The mystery is how and why it got produced.
True, there might be a play - or two or three - buried somewhere in the mess that is Roy's script. But it would need another director's eyes to uncover it or them.
Set for some unknown reason during the 1998 ice storm, the piece yawningly spans five decades and features an assortment of characters, including a drag queen (Greg Campbell), a gay drug dealer (Terrence Bryant), a francophone police detective (Michael Copeman, with an embarrassing accent) and various abusive or kindly nuns (Anne Anglin and Erin McMurtry).
After many disorienting interludes, we're introduced to the main character, Robert Fleming (Steve Cumyn), who's being interrogated in connection with a murder. He claims innocence, and scenes soon unfold that are possibly related to his foster mother, played as a child by Tess Benger, who spends much of her time carrying a candle and escaping those nasty nuns. Call it Prime Suspect Goes To Montreal.
An uneasy mix of noir and camp, the play is prosaically overwritten, with only the occasional moment jolting us awake. A towering image of a nun, for example, is frightening, and the crow-like cackles in Kevin O'Leary's sound design are effective.
But Roy's forgotten that Story-telling 101 staple: there's nothing at stake for any of his characters. Despite sure-fire themes like child abuse, murder and orphans, it's hard to feel a thing when people's faces are slapped and guns are waved around.