Review: Private Eyes (Rogue and Peasant Theatre)

By Crystal Wood

Nothing is what it seems in Rogue and Peasant Theatre’s production of Private Eyes, playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre.

But as this play illustrates, sometimes that’s not such a good thing. I was really intrigued to see to this production, after reading that its playwright Steven Dietz is one of the most produced writers in America. However, after seeing Private Eyes, I feel like it’s due more to him being prolific (over 30 plays written) than talented. Fans of Steven Dietz, flame away.

This script has more twists and turns than a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Entertaining at first, it soon starts to feel pointless. An actress and her director are having an affair – or aren’t they? A wife is cheating on her husband – or isn’t she? The waitress is an innocent bystander – or isn’t she? And so on. This story device is interesting for a while, after the fifth or sixth “gotcha!” moment, it began to wear on me.

I will say that the one moment that I actually connected with Private Eyes was a line that is said quite early in the play. “People don’t know what they’re looking for; they only know they’re looking.” It’s both true in life, and as an audience member here.

Although there is enough dark comedy to make the individual scenes entertaining, I felt unsatisfied by the story as a whole. And I wasn’t alone. I’ve taken my friend Joanne to many Mooney on Theatre plays with me, and this is the first time she said “I… don’t… know?” when I asked her if she enjoyed it.

Now, I do think full credit should be given to the cast assembled for this production. They were all uniformly strong performers, although I will say I personally enjoyed David Rosser’s “Matthew” best. (Poor, cuckolded Matthew!) They make good use of a fairly minimal set, and keep the energy high and pacing quick throughout.

I especially admired how the actors were also able to block out the heavy rainstorm outside. (Which made it sound like it was raining inside. The acoustics in the Lower Ossington Theatre aren’t the greatest.) I found it mildly distracting personally and it was difficult to hear the actors at times, but I can’t really fault them for Acts of God.

As for Joanne, she really enjoyed the impromptu dance scene that occurs shortly before the intermission. I agree it was fun, but once again, I’m not really sure why it was there. Nothing is what it seems.

Details:

– Playing until November 21 at the Lower Ossington Theatre, 100 Ossington Avenue.

– Showtimes are Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm.

– Tickets are $15-$20, with a pay-what-you-can performance on Sunday. Tickets are available at the theatre, or by calling 416-915-6747, ext. 222.

– For more information, visit www.roguetheatre.org

Photo of (L-R): David Rosser, Nora Sheehan and Patric Masurkevitch. Photo by Holly Lloyd.

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