CHIMERA by Wendy Lill, directed by Mary Vingoe (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To February 11. $32-$38, Sunday pwyc-$17. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 65. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Chimera is full of intelligent, articulate arguments. Too bad they're delivered by figures we rarely care about.
Wendy Lill 's play deals with the heated debate about stem-cell research. Roy, an Ottawa journalist who wants to rebuild his reputation, tracks down details about a scientist who's been implanting human cells in monkeys. His focus is on the grandmotherly scientist, the right-wing MP who decries her work and the new minister of justice, who also happens to be Roy's childhood friend.
Though Lill's plotting is clever, there's something brittle and uninvolving about her characters, who include a lobbyist for scientific research and the minister's aide. The arguments are well crafted, the story smart, with surprising turns, but characterization is a problem.
Don't blame the talented performers, who do what they can to imbue their characters with humanity. Philippa Domville as the minister succeeds best, especially in the second act, when she starts to reveal flaws and a suggestion of emotional crumbling, and David Jansen 's journalist has moment as well. But there's no emotional resonance in Joan Gregson 's scientist, despite her way with words. Any depth we see is too little and comes too late.
What works, though, under Mary Vingoe 's direction, is the sense of the power games they all play. Everyone, we discover, is either on a leash or pulling someone else's; the pragmatic minister's aide ( Geoffrey Pounsett ), for instance, is sometimes more handler than assistant. Our fascination with the intrinsic importance of face time, good sound bites and political mudslinging dramatically bests Lill's central tale of science and ethics.