by Sam Mooney
I went to see the Theatre Smash production Tijuana Cure prepared to enjoy it. I had read the essay Oasis of Hope by Layne Coleman, online at Walrus Magazine, on which the script is based and enjoyed it. Or, appreciated it. Enjoy may not be the right word to use about an essay that describes a couple’s trip to Mexico seeking a miracle to cure cancer.
Tijuana Cure is a narrative told by man performed by a woman, Ieva Lucs. Lucs is a very talented actor. There are a number of characters and she plays them all. One example of excellence is that the character Carole – the wife – is fully drawn in about 2 lines.
That demonstration of talent made it even harder for me to understand her decision to play the narrator the way she did. He – the narrator – took three sharp audible breathes before he spoke, maybe not before every single sentence but before a lot of them. And flailed his arms as if they were windmill vanes. Her portrayal made him seem more a caricature than a character.
I also fully expected to find myself in need of kleenex after having read the essay the play was based on, and reading the publicity for Tijuana Cure:
“…spins an irreverent tale of mid-life crisis, percocet and marijuana, youthful desire and prairie bike rides. Most importantly, he speaks of the hope found in love.”
It was this that left me expecting irreverence and the aforementioned Kleenex. I seem to have missed the irreverence, and didn’t pull out a single Kleenex. I just didn’t manage to connect with the character. I connected with the idea of the character, but that happened when I read the essay. I had a ready-made connection when I arrived. It just needed to be confirmed. I wish it had happened.
After all that you might think that I wouldn’t recommend it, but actually, I do. There were moments of brilliance, and it is certainly an interesting story. But I would say don’t read the essay before you go. My experience was a bit bogged down by expectations. So, wait until after the show to read the essay, and go to the show with an open mind.
– Tijuana Cure is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) until March 28, 2009
– Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 2:30pm
– Tickets are $15 – Tuesday to Thursday and $20 on Friday and Saturday
– For more details, visit the Theatre Passe Muraille website, or call the box office at 416-504-7529
photo of Ieva Lucs by Martha Haldenby