Snowman by Greg MacArthur, directed by David Oiye, with Paul Dunn, Philippa Domville, Eric Goulem and Veronika Hurnik. Presented by Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to October 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17-$19, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The set for Buddies in Bad Times' season-opener - designed by David Fraser - is cool, slippery and icy. One wrong move and the actors could fall.
That's appropriate, because the play, Greg MacArthur 's Snowman , is just as cool, slippery and treacherous.
The script follows the lives of four drifting souls in northern Canada. Relative newcomers Denver ( Eric Goulem ) and Marjorie ( Philippa Domville ) are living a tenuous existence, selling videos in the small town. They've befriended Jude ( Paul Dunn ), a gay teen who shares German porn and drugs with them while secretly lusting after Denver.
When Jude accidentally stumbles upon a centuries-old body, Edmonton anthropologist Kim ( Veronika Hurnik ) comes to investigate, and ends up disrupting all their lives.
MacArthur's written the play as a series of monologues, probably to emphasize the characters' isolation from one another. He's good at evoking boredom and anomie, and he's got a droll sense of humour. The ending is suitably climactic, and the central metaphor, while a bit derivative, works just fine.
What's missing - especially in the Denver-Marjorie relationship - are hints of what his characters' lives were like before. If, as we suspect, they're escaping, what are they escaping from?
David Oiye directs effectively. There's a ghost-like feel to the production that's occasionally haunting, and the way he gets his actors talking brings to mind the film Fargo. But I'm not sure the play is theatrical enough. It could work just as well on the radio.
That's not to say the performers don't add lots to the show. Goulem delivers a solid, grounded performance, while Dunn, in the play's most underwritten and difficult role, seems otherworldly. More memorable, though, is Domville, bundled up in winter gear and weighing every word she hears as if it's a riddle. Her line readings are a bit like those of her similarly bombed-out character in the SummerWorks show The Arabian Night, but she still amuses and holds our attention.
Hurnik, one of the most watchable actors in the city, brings much-needed confidence to the play. It helps that her lines are among the best-written, and the actor - flashing the audience a knowing smile - delivers them with a twist.
MacArthur's still developing as a playwright. He gives us a glossy, glassy surface.
What he hasn't done is suggest the hidden depths that lie beneath.