CRINGEWORTHY by Alex Poch-Goldin, directed by Chris Abraham (Planet 88). At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). $25-$30. 416-504-7529. See Continuing, page 184. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
For Mr. Cringeworthy, the money-lending title character in writer/performer Alex Poch-Goldin 's latest play, the name makes the man.
A "cringe" is resistance rather than refusal, and the players make that clear. There are no melodramatic moustache twirlings or macabre reactions here, just a slow, calculated advance by a predator on his trembling prey.
Playing opposite Poch-Goldin are Paul Fauteux and newcomer Tara Nicodemo as the Tarantellas, a young Italian couple who owe Cringeworthy money. Bit by bit he undoes them as they, true to their name, dance in circles to avoid his venom.
Initially, the Tarantellas' willingness to do what Cringeworthy tells them seems awkward. Their reactions are unnecessarily repetitious: Cringeworthy makes his indecent proposals, they refuse, he blackmails them, and so on.
As the action progresses, their reasons to obey deepen and widen, and the play moves into darker territory where the need for control intoxicates and corrupts all.
Cringeworthy's penchant for grotesque and hilarious limericks adds playfulness to the character and keeps him from being too cheesy. Poch-Goldin didn't write the part for himself but stepped into the role when David Jansen got drafted to the Shaw Festival. It suits him well.
Director Chris Abraham 's lean, natural staging keeps the actors moving through an intentionally claustrophobic set. With Edwardian costumes and set by Joanne Dente , an evocative soundscape by Richard Lee and mood lighting by Rebecca Picherack , the production looks as good as it sounds.
And that's nothing to cringe at.