by Lisa Loomer
Ruby Slippers Theatre
and Studio 58
Studio 58, Langara College
100 West 49th Ave.
March 19-April 3
604-257-0366 or www.festivalboxoffice.com
Three women sit in a doctor’s waiting room reading Cosmo.
Wearing traditional Chinese garb, Forgiveness from Heaven (Donna
Soares) explains with a giggle that her three-inch-long feet,
bound when she was a child to
make her more attractive to her polygamous husband, are rotting. One of her
toes has just fallen off.
Victoria (Evangela Dueck) is a tightly corseted Victorian Englishwoman.
Her physician husband (Allan Zinyk) insists she have her uterus
removed to cure
her “hysteria.” Whenever
she says “my husband,” she gives an involuntary little hysterical
kick. “Corset hurt bad, huh?” asks Forgiveness. “No,” says
Victoria, “only when I breathe.”
Wanda (Beatrice Zeilinger), a busty working girl from Noo Joysey
whose implants have gotten rock hard, worries that she might
have breast cancer. The nurse
(Nicole Gordon) reassures her: “How you gonna have cancer? You don’t have
a single body part that’s real!” But when Wanda is diagnosed with
an aggressive form of the disease, Lisa Loomer’s play shifts from black
comedy to life-and-death drama, from purveying feminist cultural anthropology
to attacking the corruption of the American medical establishment.
Turns out their doctor (Scott Bellis) is fighting cancer himself.
also fighting the system, represented by the sleazy head of the hospital board
with interests in a pharmaceutical company (Josue Laboucane), and a slimeball
working for the FDA (Nikolas Longstaff). They conspire to prevent a promising
cancer cure being developed in Jamaica from getting clinically tested in the
Subtle this is not. But it’s entertaining, educational, and often hilarious.
Playwright Loomer throws together eras, cultures, and genres with admirable recklessness,
sugar-coating her didactic political messages with broad comedy. Okay, men impose
their horrible values on women’s bodies, but we’re laughing too hard
at the slavering sexual hypocrisy of Zinyk’s repressed Victorian husband
to worry about how heavy-handed the idea may be. She argues less successfully
that capitalism compromises Americans’ health, because Laboucane’s
businessman is so radically obnoxious that the serious message gets buried under
The overplaying may be director Diane Brown’s fault, but it’s one
of her few false steps in this terrific production that seamlessly meshes the
professionals of Ruby Slippers Theatre with Langara College’s acting students.
The kids all do solid work but Soares’ Forgiveness and Dueck’s Victoria
are standouts. Of the three pros, funnyman Zinyk does his trademark zany, classy
Bellis carries the play’s dramatic load, and Zeilinger’s blowsy Wanda
is simply sensational, shifting effortlessly from ferocious comedy to the anguish
of a young woman unexpectedly facing death.
David Hudgins creates fascinating video montages of old movies,
ads, and anatomical illustrations on the sliding walls and curtains
Yvan Morisette’s cleverly
adaptable set, which allows lightning-quick scene changes. The musical transitions
are thematically impeccable, especially “She’s a Brick ... House.” So
what if it objectifies women’s bodies. It’s a great tune.