Vogt’s in its best form with Slot B

The Vogt Studio Series packs a heavy punch in this weekend’s Slot B.
The Vogt Studio Series packs a heavy punch in this weekend’s Slot B.
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Theatre Review: Vogt Slot B @ Carruthers Hall

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a little comedy. Sometimes, you’d like to watch a great tragedy unfold. Occasionally, you might find yourself in the mood to watch people eat lettuce. It’s only at a Vogt show, however, that you’ll ever get the chance to see it all in one night.

This year’s Slot B opens with the dark comedy Twisted Logic, written and directed by Justin Ingraldi. Centering on two lifelong best friends, the play gives new meaning to the idea of doing “anything” for someone you love. The action in Twisted is fast and physical, as characters Nicole and Colin each entertain a steady stream of suitors while trying to balance their own increasingly co-dependent relationship.

There are a few very funny moments in Twisted, and all the actors seem comfortable in their roles, neither playing too hard for laughs nor taking any scene too seriously. Though a few of the scenes border on the slightly absurd, leads Marni Van Dyk and John Palen have an easy chemistry on stage that lends some necessary believability to the work. Their relationship might be a tad unhealthy, but by the end they have you genuinely envious. After all, any friend will help you move, but only a true best friend will help you move a body.

The second piece of the night, the classic one-act tragedy Riders to the Sea by J.M. Synge, also avoids taking itself too seriously, and instead creates a powerful tension that will have you in a state of anticipation from beginning to end. Set on a stormy night in Ireland, the short play follows a family dealing with the potential loss of their sons and brothers to the dangers of the sea. Designers Trevor Hammond, Mark Hockin and Mary Margaret McRae deserve high praise here, for their combined visions suit the piece perfectly.

The damp and moody feel of the script translates well on stage, and director Michael Murphy is admirably creative in his approach. The final scene is especially powerful, though Murphy’s ambitious staging would have been even more effective had the audience not been able to see actors Graham Hood and Brian Collins walk on stage and get into their positions ahead of time. That said, Riders is near-perfect in its delivery, thanks in large part to the very talented cast. Actors Emily Hincks, Caroline Smith and Fernanda Fukamati have not only acquired suitable Irish accents here, but have also mastered the skill of underplaying their highly dramatic roles. Though each actor delivers at least one or two emotionally-wrought monologues during the play, there is no grandstanding in Riders, which is very refreshing.

What the first two plays may have lacked in over-the-top performances, Vogt’s third piece more than makes up for. This is a Play, the very popular satire by Canadian Daniel McIvor, has actors committing every theatrical faux pas possible within a 20-minute period. Written to give the audience a little insight into the mind of the working thespian, Play centres around three actors performing in an original drama entitled A Stranger Among Us, whose plot revolves around the metaphorical story of three lost heads of lettuce. Yes, lettuce.

Actors Megan Deeks, Ryan O’Callaghan and Sarah Bruckschwaiger are hysterical in their portrayal of these terrible performers—their comic timing is superb, and all three play well off each other. The bare set and Valen Boyd’s simple direction mean it’s up to the actors to carry the piece, and all three quickly prove they’re up to the challenge. Deeks is especially amusing in a horrendous brown wig and deep Southern drawl, and her asides to the audience garner the loudest laughs of the night. Play ends with a scene as memorable as the final minute of Riders, as heads of lettuce appear onstage and are consumed with real dramatic flair.

This year’s Slot B is an example of Vogt doing what it can do best, and this installment delivers three separate examples of really enjoyable theatre in just a two-hour period, while leaving the audience eager to come back the next night to see it all again. Go once, go twice—this one is not to be missed.

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