THE EXQUISITE HOUR by Stewart Lemoine, directed by Ron Pederson (The Theatre Department). At Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Runs to April 29, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $17, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-9971. See listing. Rating: NNN
Edmonton playwright Stewart Lemoine sets The Exquisite Hour in a kind, gentle era, when a man offered a woman his arm as they exited a room. It was a time when everything moved at a slower pace, the mood believably set by violin and piano music.
The Theatre Department's production captures that tone, blending moments alternately comic and touching, along with some melancholic thoughts about the passage of time.
On a quiet summer evening in 1962, Zachary Teale (Ted Dykstra) has a surprise visit from a woman who introduces herself as Mrs. Darimont (Daniela Vlaskalic), who asks pointedly if he's satisfied with what he knows. A strange question, and for the next hour she and he try to discover if he is.
That hour involves the "H" volume from the encyclopedic Universal Compendium of Information. The pair improvises scenes involving the little-known Saint Hubert and the "chewy names" of the royal family of Hohenstaufen. Their developing relationship is laced with laughs and clever narrative twists, as Zachary becomes confident about sharing more of himself with Mrs. Darimont.
Director Ron Pederson, who's worked with Lemoine out West and understands the writer's style, evokes the right mixture of emotions from his cast. We watch the change in Dykstra's Zachary, initially shy and stolid but eventually ebullient, and root for him to discover what life could hold for him.
Vlaskalic's occasionally enigmatic Mrs. Darimont throws herself forcefully into the role-playing, whether she's a moralistic stag (you have to be there) or a toothache-troubled patient in a dentist's office.
Short, sweet and charming, The Exquisite Hour offers sixty minutes of hilarity and hope. And, for both characters and audience, happiness.