THE TERRIBLE FALSE DECEPTION by Rafe Macpherson, with Angela Fusco, Kyle McDonald, Wally Michaels and Patricia Yeatman; SMOKE by Michael MacLean, with Hume Baugh, both directed by Vinetta Strombergs. Presented by JCC Productions at Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To April 3, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $25. 416-368-3110. Rating: Deception NN ; Smoke NNNN Rating: NNNN
Sometimes fringe shows are worth a revisit to see how well they stand up away from the frenzy of the festival. This double bill, directed by Vinetta Strombergs with a sense of the different sorts of energy each requires, begins with fitful amusement and ends with a powerful character study. There's some clever crafting in Rafe Macpherson 's The Terrible False Deception, a faux-Chekhov scene played out four times with different dialogue. Actually, in several cases we're privy to internal monologues that show what's going on in the actors' heads.
If you've ever been involved in a show, you'll know these self-involved people, maybe even identify with them as they talk about their actions and motivations.
Though at times the arch humour is forced, some laughs arise from the repetition of rhythm and spoken tone from one scene to the next, with a drastic change of context. One version is stiff costume drama, another is full of sexual innuendo, and there's lots of postmodern self-reflection about what each actor/character does.
The standout here is Patricia Yeatman , whose white-gowned heroine ends each scene with a tour-de-force monologue that runs the vocal and emotional gamut. Her comedy and delivery are spot-on. Hey, local theatres - put this talented woman onstage more often.
After intermission, we move from a mildly entertaining trifle to a work with depth, both in the writing and performing. Reg ( Hume Baugh ), the soot-covered, troubled character in Michael MacLean's Smoke, travels back through his life to his first cigarette, his fireworks-salesman father, being fired from his government job and a family tragedy.
Full of fire and smoke on a literal and metaphoric level, MacLean's suggestive, often poetic writing teases with descriptions both comic and unsettling. The vibrant Baugh ranges from an energetic, believable four-year-old to a tense, revenge-seeking 30-something, pulling us seductively along. His true-life stories and fantasies are as fascinating for the audience as a flickering flame for a pyromaniac.