Toronto’s Desiderata Theatre brings a biblical tale to an intimate al fresco setting
“Nothing spoils sin, like giving it permission,” posits Howard Barker‘s Lot and His God and the Desiderata Theatre Company’s production, currently running at Toronto’s Citizenry Cafe, plays with this proposition to great result.
The play is set against the impending destruction of Sodom – of biblical fame – and concerns the fate of Lot and His Wife, here named Sverdlosk, as the Angel Drogheda implores them to leave or face certain death.
Prince Amponsah is perfectly cast as Drogheda. The Angel starts strong and shows his lack of mercy early in blinding Andrew Pimento’s Waiter with no remorse but after sharing a kiss with Sverdlosk, weakness and defeat almost take him in moments of contemplation. Amponsah plays the character’s high and low moments with a precision so that I could feel his wrath and sympathize with his pain.
Stefne Mercedes sizzles as Sverdlosk, a lover of shoes, Sodom and love. The world and her relationships with Drogheda and Tayves Fiddis’ Lot are a game to her and even with her existence on the brink of destruction it seems there is nothing that can stop her devilish and playful smile.
Lot, it seems, is best when with his books. Fiddis encapsulates this during his monologues and moments of revelation. I could sense Lot’s uneasiness when in the presence of Drogheda and Sverdlosk and the burgeoning lust between the pair.
I felt Andrew Pimento’s performance as the stricken Waiter anchored the play as he writhed on the ground with physical prowess, a constant reminder of what was at stake for the characters.
Lot’s conversation with the God-possessed Waiter held me as it revealed the theme of the production: Betrayal and “sin” are evils only if one allows them to be defined in that way.
With respect to the production overall, the play is presented using the theatre-in-the-round approach. The space at Citizenry is intimate, with a maximum audience of 25, and while I was initially unsettled being so close to the actors, I became comfortable and engrossed in the performance within minutes. I was also worried I would miss parts of the performances staring at an actor’s back but this was not the case as they use the space effectively to engage each other and the audience from every angle.
The dialogue at points was wordy and my guest and I both felt a tad lost a certain points, however, the physical performance of the actors allows one to follow the story visually if attention waivers.
Lot and His God gives us three characters on a crash course with imminent destruction. In giving permission to their sins and letting those sins lead them, they have come to a crossroads where their only choice is to either die on their comfortable path or attempt to forge a new one. Watching as they make this choice is both intense and entertaining.
- Lot and His God is playing until June 28th at the Citizenry Cafe (982 Queen St. West).
- Shows run Wednesday to Sunday at 8pm sharp.
- Ticket prices range from $15-$25 and are available at the venue or online, with Wednesday performances Pay-What-You-Can.
- Audience advisory: As the performance is outside, check the weather and bring a sweater if need be.
Photo of Prince Amponsah and Stefne Mercedes by Lauren Horejda.