Nothing tame about Domestic comedy

Plastic People mount surreal narrative but maintain improvisational style

Ava McDonald as the delusional housewife Betty (right) rises to the challenge of performing most of her scenes with a corpse (Joel Babcock, left).
Ava McDonald as the delusional housewife Betty (right) rises to the challenge of performing most of her scenes with a corpse (Joel Babcock, left).

Theatre Preview: Domestic @ The Red Room, Kingston Hall until Saturday

After a smashing noise followed by a spray of bullets, flashing lights and a woman mowing down innocents while screaming “I love you so much,” it seemed reasonable to expect the walls to melt. Surreal and hilarious, the Plastic People Theatre Company’s Domestic is a cogent, utterly unique piece of dark comedy.

In its third year, the Plastic People Theatre Company has gained a reputation as a progressive and
often provocative group willing to push borders. Since their modest beginnings in sketch comedy, Plastic People has diversified and taken on the ambitious project of employing a narrative script in Domestic.

Director/producer Chris Ellis admits that past sketches were “quite vulgar; [they] offended quite a few people.”

While Domestic doesn’t lack shocking moments, Ellis said the production “is a lot more mature; it’s more enriched.”

The play is set in the Smiths’ 1950s kitchen, where Betty Smith returns home from a shopping cursion to find her husband slouched at the dinner table, dead. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Although her husband is dead, talking to anyone—lifeless, alive or imaginary—is better than solitude
for Mrs. Smith. She often receives phone calls from God, who is upset with her for not playing Canasta.
On other occasions, she’s visited by an encyclopedia salesman and two quirky Englishmen.

Betty’s utter detachment from reality helps her reconcile the problems of modern society with her istorted perception of goodness. Actor Ava McDonald has the daunting task of playing the insane Betty mith. McDonald effectively employs an eerie composure broken by fits of manic energy.

Although working with a corpse for the majority of the play is challenging, McDonald keeps the play active and fluid by filling the stage with her deranged alter egos.

Her performance is compelling enough to carry the show, but the supporting characters contribute to
the absurdity.

Joseph Taylor, played by Ryan LaPlante, is a contemporary Lazarus fated to die and return from the dead repeatedly, with the additional curse of having to sell encyclopedias for eternity. Strange and sometimes pitiable, LaPlante’s portrayal of the Salesman shows how the knowledge of one’s death and resurrection can seriously screw someone up. In addition, LaPlante actually makes you believe he has
been awake for 759 hours through a flurry of paranoid twitches and sales pitches. Though Domestic arks something of a departure from Plastic People’s previous work, the company continues to employ the energy and spirit of their improv roots within the structure of a script.

“We’re very big on making sure it’s collaborative,” assistant director Irene Meimaris said, “and we ensure that we have communication with the cast.”

Rattling the shackles of rationality yet maintaining linear flow, the Plastic People Theatre Company has carried off an ambitious project. If you respect the unpredictable and thrive off organic, fresh drama, watch the Plastic People do their thing.

Domestic runs tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 at Destinations.

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