Review: Overruled/Romance (Neoteny Theatre)


Shaw and LaBute face off on love, morals, guilt and passion at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre

I’m not sure what it would look like if George Bernard Shaw and Neil LaBute went for a drink together, but I imagine it might have been something akin to fledgling theatre company Neoteny Theatre‘s double-bill production of Overruled/Romance. In Red Sandcastle Theatre‘s cozy storefront space it’s hard not to describe my experience at the show as anything less than up close and personal.

Overruled is a quick-fire one-act by Shaw, following the brief encounter of two couples who are in the midst of embarking on adventures in infidelity – with each other’s partners. LaBute’s Romance is a darker exploration of the caveats of intense love and love loss. Themes of lust, morality, passion and guilt are a distinct through-line in each show, making them an interesting pair despite Shaw being light-heartedly farcical and LaBute being especially grounded and hyper-realistic.

Chamberlain’s cast is a young group full of energy, which makes Shaw’s over-the-top wit that much more enjoyable to watch. I was especially drawn to Caitlin Stewart’s extreme -and hilarious- facial expressions as Mrs. Juno. The dynamic between the four is playful, and I found the pacing to be just right. I actually also liked the somewhat choreographed transition between the two pieces, it was smooth and seamless and did make a good attempt to set the tone for Romance.

The LaBute piece, however, seemed to be a bit too stark in comparison to Shaw. Understandably, both pieces are vastly different in style and over exaggerating LaBute’s drama would be counter-intuitive, but I still felt as though Meghan Swaby and Kelly Penner could have pushed the envelope a little more in their performances. It seemed as though there was a lot of interiority happening, the moments that were explosive, mostly on Swaby’s part, came quickly and with great force, but were lost in subsequent beats as the tension needed to be rebuilt.

I posed the idea of swapping the order of the pieces to Brandon, my play date for the evening, but as we discussed it we agreed that the order as it was would have worked fine if the energy in both sections were matched. What Neoteny is doing however, under Chamberlain’s directorship, is swapping roles in LaBute’s play for each performance, meaning every night there’s a different pairing for LaBute’s two-hander. Better still, tickets to see a repeat performance are only $5 for returning playgoers. Brandon and I both thought it’d be really interesting to see how the second half would work with different actors.

I’m not sure what my plans are for Friday night, but I’d definitely sit through this exuberant production of Shaw a second time just to see how Romance pans out with a completely different dynamic.


  • Overruled/Romance is playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East) until April 6, 2013
  • Shows run Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $5-15
  • Tickets are available online, or can be reserved by phone at 416-845-9411

Photo of Kelly Penner, Caitlin Stewart, Meghan Swaby and Amos Crawley by Kreddible Trout Photography.