Review: Sucker (Blood, Sweat & Blood Collective)

sucker

Vampires, goths and Jews in Kat Sandler’s Halloween-themed play Sucker at Toronto’s Storefront Theatre

Sucker (at the Storefront) is presented as a Halloween entertainment–and coming away from it afterwards, this is an extremely apt description.

There’s blood. Lots and lots of blood. People die excruciating, humiliating deaths. There are vampires and occultists and murderers and attorneys. The story is warped and twisted, and–as with all good haunted houses–there’s a damned good scare right at the very end.

But, eventually, the party has to wind down. The lights come on, and suddenly, things crystallize. The creatures are constructed of makeup and papier maché; the blood comes from a gallon jug bought at a party store. Underneath all these gruesome masks are five very ordinary people pretending to be monsters.

At least, we hope they’re pretending.

Beth (Jessica Moss) and Jamie’s (Andy Trithardt) parents are dead, killed in a tragic accident that wiped out 15 other neighbours. Jamie deals with this tragedy by bumming around Europe, winding up in Israel, and discovering a new purpose in his life. Beth stays closer to home and starts drinking horse’s blood. At least, she will. Eventually. That’s what vampires do, right? Just… just let her work up to it, okay?

To fund her transformation into a creature of the night, Beth takes in a boarder: Constance (Astrid Van Wieren), a saucy older broad who evidently has a thing for rabbis–and may have a secret or two up her sleeve. Joining her is new arrival Aenth (G. Kyle Shields), a teenaged goth drawn into the household by the presence of a real-life honest-to-goodness vampire. Finally, we meet the impossibly slender Mr. Carter (Colin Munch), who has come to deliver what he clearly thinks will be good news.

Kat Sandler’s script grew on me. The first half drags a little, especially in the earliest scenes; this is mitigated considerably Moss and Trithardt’s rat-a-tat-tat delivery, bantering exactly as siblings ought to. But as soon as Aenth makes his entrance, things really take off, and the entire second half whizzes by in a barrage of tears and laughter. It’s obvious that Sandler loves these characters–the siblings in particular–and this love produces something even better than the sum of these parts.

And those parts are done extremely well. While Moss has a few (excellent) brief solo scenes, and Munch does most of his work alone, this cast functions best when playing together, especially when they pile up towards the middle of the second act. The “sad party” scene is a fantastic ride from start to finish, building perfectly to a climax which will hit you square between the eyes, even though it’s been telegraphed throughout the production. I also need to mention Shields, whose Aenth has an incredible entrance–and one which he plays for all he can.

Sandler does double duty as set designer, and has cultivated a gorgeous landscape straight out of smalltown anywhere. But her touch is most clear with her cast: these are outstanding performers on their own merits, and getting them into such fine form shows Sandler’s chops as a director. So good and so coherent is this finished product that, whatever flaws this show has, they’re completely forgiven by the curtain call.

I know, I know. It sounds weird. Vampires and goths and Jews and… what?

But it’s good. Really, really good. Just get yourself over that first-act speed bump and it’s smooth sailing down the other side. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll love it.

Details

  • Sucker plays the Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor West, near Ossington Station) through November 9th, 2013.
  • Tickets are $20. One PWYC performance, Halloween discount available: see website for details.
  • Performances run nightly Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees at 2 PM on Sunday the 27th, Saturday the 2nd and Saturday the 9th.
  • Tickets can be purchased in-person at the venue, or online. (Service fee applies to online orders.)

Photograph of the cast by Zaiden.