Vogt D-livers insightful trio of plays

A tense scene from Vogt D’s dark comedy, Gunplay.
A tense scene from Vogt D’s dark comedy, Gunplay.

Theatre Review: Vogt D @ Rotunda Theatre, Vogt Studio

“What is art?” is the question posed to audience members when they enter the Vogt Theatre in Carruthers Hall for Vogt Slot D. If one was to judge by the plays that followed, art is funny, sad, absurd, sexy, violent, nostalgic—basically, too complex to define on the tiny slips of paper provided at the door.

Whether or not Vogt answers its own question does not, however, change the fact that the year’s latest Vogt production offers a trio of odd insightful and at times, hysterical plays.

The evening begins with Gallery, directed by Cory Chedarchuk and performed by Jay Collins, Lindsay Hunter, Lex Kilgour, Daniella Ortega and Dayla Ramlochand. Gallery is a short ensemble piece addressing the question, “What is art?” The piece has no strong narrative structure, but rather follows a variety of patrons as they explore a modern art gallery: a dreamy artist, a snobby curator, a cynical critic and an out-of-place old woman who wonders “where the Monets are.” Each character represents a different perspective to the play’s key question, as do members of the audience via one of the set’s most creative pieces: a fishbowl filled with the audience’s definitions of art, written on slips of paper before the beginning of the show and read out by different characters in the play. The play lacks the substance to be appreciated as a stand-alone play, but it works as a way to set the mood for the rest of the night and get the audience thinking about the meaning of what they are seeing. The second play, As Time Goes By, also examines the meaning of art, specifically its dynamic nature and its relationship with reality. As Time Goes By, written by Sarah Kriger and directed by Carolyn Roche, takes place in a world where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet live out regular lives in between performances of their plays. The setting is the living room of the tragic couple, who are approaching old age and are experiencing a rut in their relationship.

The play documents an argument that the two have likely been having for a long time: Why don’t young people care about them any more? What happens when people stop going to their play?

As Time Goes By balances its dramatic and comic moments well. Despite containing many funny lines and clever Shakespearean in-jokes, it also serves as an interesting meditation on the contrast between the romantic fictions people have of life and death, and the mundane reality: audiences may cry at the end of Romeo and Juliet, but somehow the idea of the two of them quarrelling about chores and television is much sadder.

Actors John Palen and Jessica Hallis do an excellent job in their roles, especially considering that they are playing characters quite a bit older than themselves.

Vogt D ends with the dark comedy Gunplay, directed by Kat Sandler and Megan McCarthy, about two soldiers (Glenn Best and Jonathan Heppner) who seek shelter in a kindergarten classroom to wait for a mysterious person named Sven. The details of what war they’re fighting are never made clear, but they’re not important. Throughout the course of the play, new characters arrive to take shelter in the classroom and wait for Sven: a bickering married couple (Even Arppe and Irene Meimaris), a prostitute (Katie Purchase), and a paraplegic army general (Rob Bril).

With due respect to As Time Goes By, Gunplay was the high point of the night. The play’s incongruous setting—the set consisted of stuffed toys, alphabet blocks and child’s pictures, while the costumes were either army fatigues (in one case, blood-drenched) or see-through lingerie—and the over-the-top behaviour of the characters highlights the absurdity of war in a way somewhat reminiscent of the funnier scenes in Catch-22, while the characters are surprisingly well-developed for such a short play.

The script, written by Sandler, does an exceptional job of keeping each character’s motivations and loyalties ambiguous, thus allowing the story to twist and turn in unexpected directions.

Gunplay is very physical and energetic—it seems that the characters are on the verge of a shootout every five minutes and there are probably not two characters who don’t end up with guns pointed at each other’s heads at some point in the play.

Though this is the longest play of the night, it is also the fastest paced: the constant threat of violence keeps the audience’s interest piqued—that, and the fact that the play is very, very funny. What is art? Vogt D might not have the answers, but it does offer some interesting suggestions, as well as quite a few laughs.

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