THE BLUES written and directed by Hrant Alianak, with David Bolt, Janet Burke, Linda Griffiths and Eric Peterson. Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to April 13, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN Rating: NN
There are times when hrant Alianak's 1976 The Blues seems like a piece of noir style in search of a play. And others when a clever bit of writing -- in the hands of a good actor -- holds you riveted by its gush of energy.It's 1951 in Aldo's bar, where writer/director Alianak intentionally gathers a quartet of stereotypes -- the laconic barkeeper (David Bolt), a hooker disappointed in love (Linda Griffiths), a rejected and therefore dejected novelist (Eric Peterson) and a Salvation Army officer (Janet Burke) out to recruit a few souls.
Alianak's script gives them little to do except play out the expected characterizations. The bartender waxes philosophic, the prostitute moons to Billie Holiday ballads, and you can pretty well predict the rest. Alianak both loves and sends up the style and the stereotypes, though he'd draw us in more if there were some surprises and some plot.
But there's also undeniable pleasure in the work, notably Burke's prim Sally Ann worker, who discovers her sexuality and then guiltily bemoans her moral degradation. Peterson almost steals the show from his first entrance with a wonderfully frantic, on-the-edge intensity, capped by a pair of long monologues that he drives like a pro handling two well-tuned racing cars.