THE LEISURE SOCIETY by François Archambault, translated by Bobby Theodore, directed by Ken Gass, with Irene Poole, Richard Zeppieri, Geoffrey Pounsett and Carolyne Maraghi. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to April 24, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday and April 23 at 2 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc-$20, stu/srs discounts. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
At both sides of the Leisure Society's elegant, dove-grey set, designer Marian Wihak has placed some iridescent pieces of see-through sculpture.
Bright on the outside, empty on the inside, they're a perfect metaphor for most of the characters in François Archambault 's nasty yet funny send-up of 30-somethings who have all the external trappings of success but no real pleasure in life.
The idea's a truism, but Archambault's characters grab us with their intensity, a dark humour they themselves are unaware of and a sensual subtext that keeps us guessing who's going to end up with whom. And for how long.
Mary and Peter have one child - we hear him cry a lot via a baby monitor - and are about to adopt a second. They're leaning toward Chinese, because they've thought about doing welfare work but don't have the time, and at a recent music competition they noticed that the first prizes went to Chinese kids.
This condescending twosome have invited their divorced friend Mark and his "special friend" Paula for dinner.
It turns into an evening of fun and games with the occasional Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? undertone. As barriers come down and sugar coatings melt, several desperate, emotionally naked people are revealed.
The cast couldn't be any better under Ken Gass 's sharp direction, with Richard Zeppieri and Irene Poole as the "we're very happy, really" husband and wife - he an ingratiating compromiser with a lust he can't easily express, she with a touch of deep panic in the corner of her eye and a drunken, cold rage that's really ugly.
Geoffrey Pounsett 's Mark has regressed to boyhood self-pleasures, but happiness still eludes him; he tends to go ballistic when things don't go his way. Carolyne Maraghi as the younger Paula is, for all of her sexual awareness, the show's innocent. If there's a problem with the script, it's her role; Maraghi gives it effervescent life, but Archambault hasn't filled out Paula's character as much as he has the other three.
It's rare to see a show that's both as amusing and as upsetting as The Leisure Society. For all its edgy laughs, we can't help but feel the sadness in these characters, or fail to see something of ourselves in them.