When the climax of a play features the reading of a piece of poetry, you know you're in for a literary, rather than a dramatic, evening. That's indeed the case with Doubt, Michael Redhill's conceptual play about the idea of suspension.
Conceptual? Idea? Suspension? Yes, Virginia, unless the playwright's name is Tom Stoppard, it's going to be a rough night at the theatre.
Without giving too much of the precious plot away, Henry (Michael Healey) is a mystery writer who's suffering from insomnia, meets a mysterious woman named Melanie (Deborah Drakeford) and then visits his former wife, Helena (Martha Ross), in the middle of the night.
Meanwhile, Keith (Chris Earle) and Karen (Waneta Storms), characters from Henry's unfinished novel, play out a scene trapped in an elevator -- they're suspended, get it? -- and come to a standstill because Henry's got writer's block.
There's some cleverness throughout, from the rhyming names of the characters and the Pirandello-meets-Woody-Allen imagined fictional characters, to the ending suitable for a philosophical mystery. Throughout, director Leah Cherniak creates an appropriately dreamlike and non-naturalistic feel to the piece.
But Redhill forgets that suspense is part of suspension. It's hard to care for any of the characters without knowing who they are. He also uses modernist touches like having "real" and "imaginary" characters chatting for no reason. And what's up with the pretentious name-dropping, a la Tony Trollope and Larry Sterne?
Only Earle and Storms survive the play intact. At least they seem to be having fun. Maybe we identify with them. They're trapped in an elevator shaft and we're trapped in the audience.
DOUBT, by Michael Redhill, with inspiration by the company, directed by Leah Cherniak, with Deborah Drakeford, Chris Earle, Michael Healey, Martha Ross and Waneta Storms. Presented by Theatre Columbus at the Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 28, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$22, Sunday pwyc. 504-9971. Rating: NN