Tess Degenstein (left) and Colin Munch distance and occasionally delight in Trout Stanley.
Claudia Dey’s Trout Stanley is a tale of twins, love, insecurity and snails. Oh, and an exotic dancer/Scrabble champ who’s gone missing in her sparkly costume.
Surreal but with a strong emotional core, the script simultaneously surprises and moves the audience, but director Daniel Pagett’s staging for Severely Jazzed Productions often keeps us at a distance from the characters and their problems.
The Ducharme sisters, beehive-haired Grace (Tess Degenstein) and pantsuited Sugar (Hannah Spear) live an isolated, self-contained existence in the BC woods. Grace takes care of the garbage dump, and Sugar, dependent on her sibling and prone to fainting, hasn’t left the cabin since their parents died a decade before, though she yearns for more life experience.
The play takes place on their 30th birthday, which is also the anniversary of their parents’ death. The fraternal twins wish they could celebrate with another sister who died in childbirth. Instead, they have an unexpected visitor, the always truthful Trout Stanley (Colin Munch) – yes, he’s named after a fish – wearing a worn-out police uniform and on a mission to find the lake farther north where his own parents died.
These orphans become involved in a triangle in which the protective, distrustful Grace tries to keep Sugar away from Trout, despite the clear attraction between them.
Pagett, who did such a fine job directing The Skriker last fall, doesn’t let Dey’s characters speak for themselves. He inserts a Storyteller (Dan Jeannotte) into the show, having him recite stage directions, sometimes echo the characters’ lines and provide sound effects.
Adding to this distancing, Spear and Degenstein deliver their lines in an intentionally stylized, presentational fashion that hinders our connecting with Grace and Sugar’s situation; the dialogue impedes our engagement and loses its occasional lyricism. By the play’s end, though, after Grace has had an epiphany of sorts, Degenstein softens, revealing her character’s poignant side.
Happily, Munch captures both the absurdity of Trout’s lines and the feelings bubbling beneath the surface. He has two of Dey’s best speeches, the first recounting his bizarre history, which here becomes a believable, cathartic scene. For the other, a description of the slow mating of the aforementioned snails, Munch adds a spin that makes you smile at the poetic strangeness of his words and take him into your heart at the same time.