Review: Death (A Play!) (art and lies productions)

“If I were you,” a figure in black advises in Woody Allen’s Death (A Play!), which opened on November 23rd at Cadillac Lounge, and runs until this Saturday, “I’d contribute as best you can, until your function becomes specific.”

The hapless recipient of these words is a character named Kleinman.

Kleinman is balding. He has a nasal, quavering voice. And he has just been roused out of bed, to help hunt a killer on the loose.

“I just don’t get Woody Allen,” said my friend, referring to Mr. Allen’s work more than the person (though perhaps they’re one-in-the-same), after I mentioned plans to see Death (A Play!), first published in 1975. Adding, in a lighter tone, “I’ve seen Annie Hall, and Manhattan. And – I dunno … maybe one day I’ll appreciate it.” Before, with a shrug, reiterating, “But I just don’t get it.”

I hummed in reply, not sure what to say.

I don’t know Mr. Allen’s work that well. But, as my friend commented – “he’s all neurotic” – I am familiar with the reputation Mr. Allen has, as preoccupied with his own psyche.

So going to the show, produced by a company called art and lies, what I was expecting was a comedy that swerved occasionally to examine one character’s feelings on death.

Mr. Allen’s play is far more imaginative than I expected.

Mr. Allen has found a way to effectively dramatize death, without really talking it to death.

Almost like Odysseus in the Iliad – though with a heck of a lot more jokes than Homer’s dry ol’ text – Kleinman gets stuck on a journey beyond his control, after characters, calling themselves vigilantes, rap on his apartment door.

The vigilantes – a motley band of clowns – suspect Kleinman might be responsible for a couple of local homicides. To prove otherwise, Kleinman agrees to help them find the real murderer. And so with all the courage of the lion in The Wizard Of Oz, Kleinman stalks into the night.

As Kleinman wanders the empty streets, he muses to a prostitute that he could run around with no pants on – adding quickly, “not that I would!”

He also happens across a few other characters. Amongst them a doctor, a wheezing elderly couple, and a clairvoyant magician in a cape that can literally sniff – “sniff, sniff” he says, running his nose up Kleinman’s leg, “sniffity-sniff-sniff”– out the truth.

They’re not all for comic relief either, these characters.

The prostitute for example, dressed in a ravishing red coat, makes some startlingly thought-provoking observations, as she and Kleinman stare at the stars.

There are also plenty of one-liners. Like this one, on reincarnation: “It’s hard to imagine a CEO in this life comin’ back as a-a, chipmunk.”

Almost every character that offers to bring Kleinman closer to an understanding of death, or more importantly, the killer he is trying to confront, causes him to hide behind jokes. It’s a very endearing quality, I found. And so Death (A Play!) kept me amused.

The production features performances by Adam Barrett, Thomas Duplessie, Seth Drabinsky, Danie Friesen, Hilary June Hart, L.A. Lopes, Kevin Rees, Aaron Rothermund, Jessica Salgueiro, and Megan Vickers.

It was directed by Rosanna Saracino. The lighting was designed by Laird Macdonald. The stage manager is David Liotta, with additional technical support by John Esposito.

I’d recommend going if you have chance. Though dress warmly, the stage is on a heated back patio that was pretty chilly.



Death (A Play!) is playing at Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen Street West) until Saturday, November 26th 2011
– Performances are at 8:00 PM through Friday, November 25th and at 7:00 PM on Saturday, November 26th
– Tickets cost $15, and are available at the door

Photo: arts and lies productions

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