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preview imageDEMON VOICE
By Shawn Macdonald
Touchstone Theatre
Performance Works, Granville Island
Nov. 19-28
604-684-2787 pr

Shawn Macdonald’s new play wrestles with weighty themes: love, guilt, remorse, repression, forgiveness, repentance.  And Katrina Dunn’s Touchstone production benefits from some very strong performances.  I was interested, but in the end left relatively untouched.  I think the script needs at least one more go-round.

On David Roberts’ multi-tiered set we meet six characters whose lives are interwoven.  Apparent free spirit Rachel (Stephanie Belding) is having an affair with Mike (Kevin K. James), whose wife Anna (Gwynyth Walsh), a judge, has gone off sex with him.  Pete (William MacDonald), an ex-con trying to go straight, develops a friendship with Anna, the very judge who had sent him to prison five years earlier.  Pete is looking for his old cellmate, Darryl (Patrick Keating), now living on the street, who somehow insinuates himself into the condo where Rachel and Mike are having their thing.  Finally, confined to a bed in a separate room, attached to a tube of some kind and badly scarred is Sara (Katharine Venour), who we later learn is Rachel’s twin.

Some of the plot lines are stronger and clearer than others.  Pete’s desire to reform and obtain forgiveness from Darryl is powerful, driven by MacDonald’s typically deep and muscular performance.  Keating’s Darryl  is a fascinating character and the resolution of their relationship is the one genuinely moving element of the play—despite an overly rhetorical speech about man-to-man affection that the playwright gives to Pete.

Mike and Rachel’s relationship leads her back to her sister, and I have to say I didn’t understand what motivated that reconnection.  The potential power of Sara’s strange monologues and of the sisterly meeting was also diluted by Dunn’s positioning Sara on the highest level of the set so she seemed distant, even in the relatively confined Performance Works space.  Plus the acoustic distortions of her voice made parts of her monologues difficult to hear. 

The strangest of the characters is Anna, played by Walsh with increasingly neurotic intensity.  I won’t attempt a psychological analysis of her relationship with her husband or with ex-con Pete; let’s just say that neither one seems very healthy.  I was fascinated by Anna, but not even Walsh’s ferociously repressed performance offered any real emotional access. 

As with so much of this play I found myself admiring the idea of her but wondering what, in the end, I was supposed to feel.

Jerry Wasserman