Who knew potlucks could be so sinister? Written and directed by Grayson Moore, Ways to Kill Ethyl is set at a potluck dinner where brother and sister Patrick (Jeff Ulrich) and Eudora (Krista Hovsepian) are plotting to murder their grandmother, Ethyl (Susan Q. Wilson). Getting in their way is their half brother Victor (Tyler Champagne), as well as Ethyl’s disinterest in any of the poisoned beverages they place before her.
The play is framed as a tall tale being told to the audience by The Storyteller, a sheriff like figure who speaks with a halting southern twang. This framing device helps excuse some of the harder to believe aspects of the plot, because, as The Storyteller tells us, the story may or may not be true.
This dark comedy goes all the way from the dinner table to lethal injection, with several tangents along the way. Moore seems to be trying to shock his audience, and he certainly succeeds at times. I found, however, that the mundane parts of the play, such as conversations about the nature of potlucks, were much funnier than the more provocative moments.
The cast approaches the dark material with enthusiasm, though at times their quick delivery makes the lines hard to hear. This is a shame because Moore’s writing is where the humour comes from, and on Thursday night jokes that flew by too quickly didn’t get the laughs they deserve.
In this day of elder abuse and horrific murders, it’s a little hard to find the humour in two young people plotting to off their grandmother – especially when, once Ethyl appears, she seems so utterly without malice. Perhaps this is intended to heighten the absurdity of the situation, but instead Ethyl becomes an almost tragic figure, wringing a genuine moment of pathos from the play.
Ways to Kill Ethyl may not appeal to everyone’s sense of humour, but Moore’s writing shows promise. When the lights go down it is hard to know what to take from the play, except, perhaps, to be careful at the next potluck you attend.
- Ways to Kill Ethyl is playing at Venue 12 – Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until July 15, 2012
- -Showtimes are July 5 6:30pm, July 7 11:00pm, July 9 1:00pm, July 11 7:30pm, July 13 9:15pm, July 14 12:30pm, July 15 3:30pm
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only).
- Tickets are also available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows