Dark comedy Mules is funny yet tragic, playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre in Toronto
MULES is billed as a dark comedy about friendship and drug smuggling. It is funny but more in the first half of the show. Things get pretty tragic after that. It’s about two women, both of whom have fairly hard lives. Crystal (Eva Barrie) is a single mom, she got pregnant on prom night, who works at a supermarket and is a new mule -a drug smuggler. Cindy (Anita Majumdar) is an exotic dancer, sometime drug dealer, maybe sex worker who doesn’t have a job and owes serious money to her dangerous boyfriend Sully, and is a wannabe trafficker.
The play is about the desperate decisions people will make when they feel powerless and trapped with no way out.
It takes place entirely in a women’s washroom at Vancouver airport. Thanks to Brandon Kleiman’s terrific set, and the narrow set-up of the seating, it feels as if we’re right in the washroom too. Jennifer Lennon’s harsh lighting and John Gzowski’s faint airport announcements add to the realism. Gzowski is also responsible for some other excellent sound effects that add to the realism and the gross out factor of the play.
Crystal has a belly full of cocaine capsules and Cindy wants her to pass them right now.
Both women give terrific performances. Majumdar’s Cindy is stressed, anxious, and working hard to hold it together. She’s always thinking and planning, talking to Crystal in the toilet stall in a sweet voice but with a pissed off expression on her face. She’s a hard woman.
Barrie’s Crystal is almost the exact opposite. She’s girlish, naive, and sweet, and nothing is going to make her do something she doesn’t want to do unless she decides to do it. It takes her a long time to figure out what Cindy is really doing. She’s a Pollyanna.
The third character is Troy the janitor, admirably played by Tim Walker. He’s a man who just wants to do his job. He’s only had it for a month and he’s afraid he’ll be fired. He’s an honest man. I didn’t feel that his character advanced the plot. Things got to be over the top after he appeared. Of course without him there wouldn’t be the really fabulous three-person fight scene choreographed by Simon Fon. I’ve never been that close to a fight scene before.
Director Vikki Anderson has created created a well paced production and done a terrific job of ramping up the sense of urgency as the play progresses.
MULES is written by Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic. They wrote The Drowning Girls, which I loved, with Charlie Tomlinson. I don’t love this as much. It feels as it needs to be tightened up. Having said that, I did enjoy it. I felt that the characters were treated with respect. It’s definitely worth seeing. Just be aware that there’s a high gross out factor and the way the seats are arranged there isn’t really anywhere to look away except maybe your lap.
- MULES is playing until March 2, 2019 at Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw Ave)
- Performance times are Monday through Saturday at 8:30 pm and Saturday at 2:30 pm
- Tickets prices range from PWYC Monday to $28.25 Friday and Saturday evening. Discounted Student, Senior and Arts worker tickets are available
- Tickets are available online and at the theatre
Photo of Eva Barrie and Anita Majumdar by Dahlia Katz