Review: The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast (Monkeyman Productions)


The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast, a comedy about superheroes gone awry, is playing at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

In its 5th anniversary show, Monkeyman Productions takes over the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace with The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast, a play that hearkens back to the kookier days of superhero comics. Where characters were allowed to be a bit zany and the cells were brightly coloured and lacking the grit and darkly tortured souls of today’s heroic universe.

Dr. Nefarious is a retired super villain, recently married, and about to embark on a new business venture as a small-time hotelier. On the weekend of his bed and breakfast’s grand opening, he and the disembodied voice of his wife, Margot, welcome two couples to stay as the properties’ first guests. One of the couples is actually a pair of retired superheroes, who seem to believe that Dr. Nefarious hasn’t quite given up his evil ways. The second couple -a pair of newlyweds- have their own peculiarities and secrets that are revealed throughout the course of the play. Along with Dr. Nefarious’ trusty demi-primate henchman Half-Ape, the ensemble proceeds to have quite the whirlwind adventure.

I really wanted to like this show. As a quasi-geek myself, I was interested in the idea of a theatre company touting itself as a purveyor of “geek theatre”. I was taken in by the story playwright D.J. Sylvis sets out to tell with The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast. I thought there were moments in the script that were pure gold, lines that were delivered in a timely manner that had me turn to my date for the evening and grin with a giggle. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of those moments to keep me enthralled throughout and I found that the execution was lacking in certain key areas.

My date and I agreed that the pacing of the show, particularly in the first act, dragged quite a bit. Lines weren’t delivered as smoothly as they could have been and scene changes took up too much time. I’m not sure Martin Chodorek’s direction favoured the idea that the story should have moved along faster. Granted, this was probably a team effort thanks to the clunkiness of D.J.’s script. Despite the few hilarious zingers, I felt like the dialogue was a bit overwrought and frequently tried a little too hard.

While the actors put forward a commendable amount of energy, the only one who really stood out for me was Jeff Orchard’s Dr. Nefarious, played with an earnestness that every evil-turned-good super villain ought to have. My date also enjoyed the disembodied vocal stylings of Clare Blackwood as Margot, and Tim Nussey as Half-Ape.

Overall I think the production has great potential, but I think it would do well to suffer through a workshop or two. Ideally, I think it would do excellently if D.J. cut it down to a cool 60 minutes and tried to nab a Fringe lottery spot.