Outside the March has become a perennial favourite at SummerWorks. The company has presented acclaimed shows at the festival the past couple years including their wild roller coaster ride of a production, Terminus, last year. Their offering this year is Murderers Confess at Christmastime, and if Terminus was a roller coaster, this show is more like a fun house; a dark, twisted ride.
This is the premiere production of the new play by playwright and Outside the March Associate Artist Jason Chinn. Chinn’s script alternates focus between three sets of characters and three separate plot lines that don’t converge and don’t really relate to each other other than the fact that they all occur around Christmas.
First, we meet a cross-dressing kidnapper (Harry Judge) and his latest victim (Amy Keating) who may or may not be developing Stockholm Syndrome. Then, we meet a politician (Aaron Willis) in the midst of a hookup with a boy (Jeff Ho) when his drug-addicted wife (Candace Berlinguette) walks in on them. Finally, we meet two co-workers, Luba and Elliot (Nancy McAlear and Tony Nappo). After an office Christmas party Luba repeatedly spurns the advances of her lovelorn colleague.
I find that Chinn doesn’t really delve deeply into his characters or examine the underlying reasons why they are the way they are. The character of Elliot, a paraplegic, especially comes off as a bit of a cliché. The characters are outlined in broad strokes and we’re pretty much meant to accept that these are all deeply flawed individuals but instead of relating to them or empathizing with them, we just kind of sit back and watch the freak show unfold.
Instead, the playwright focuses on the nature of the three relationships themselves. At its heart, this is a play about power and control; the characters who wield the power in the three dysfunctional relationships are desperately trying to cling to it while the characters who are initially subjugated react in different ways with hugely divergent results.
Murderers Confess at Christmastime starts out lightly with humour and wit, the early parts of the show are laugh out loud funny but then things gradually veer in a darker direction and we progress further and further down the twisted path. The show is wickedly perverse, at times it practically basks in its perversity. A fair amount of sexual violence is portrayed, be warned if that’s a trigger for you.
Despite the few issues I had with it, I enjoyed the show. What really sold me on it was the top-notch production, direction and performances. This is as sleek and finely tuned a production as we’ve come to expect from Outside the March. Director Simon Bloom paces the show well, never allowing it to drag. His efforts are supported by consistently strong performances from a talented ensemble. If you’re a fan of black humour, Murderers Confess at Christmastime is the show for you.
- Murderers Confess at Christmastime plays at Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave.)
- Show times: Thursday August 8, 5:00 pm; Saturday August 10, 2:30 pm; Monday August 12, 7:30 pm; Tuesday August 13, 10:00 pm; Wednesday August 14, 5:00 pm; Friday August 16, 2:30 pm; Saturday August 17, 12:00 pm.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at summerworks.ca/2013/tickets/, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows