Articles written for various community newspapers in the Lower Mainland, B.C. and special interest print and online magazines

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chutzpah! Festival Review - Donald and Lenore

On stage at this year’s 2010 Chutzpah! Festival, Donald and Lenore peels back the glossy cover of holiday package brochures to reveal the stark struth about Western society’s evasion of global issues.

In a brightly lit, vacation-themed airport lounge Donald and Lenore are an unlikely pair of down-on-their- luck entertainers contemplating their future in a pre-apocalyptic landscape of cancelled flights and dwindling audiences.

Lenore is a buxom, trashy fifty-year-old woman with a penchant for hunky young convicts. Her latest is Donald, an earnest and sweet twenty-five-year-old thief in a sarong who she has hired as her seventh jail bait replacement for her act. They practice for the night’s musical performance that never manifests, creating a Waiting for Godot atmosphere staged with a gaudy cast of would-be Club Med characters. Set against a kitschy tropical backdrop in the “Tahitian room,” Donald plunks away at the Casio keyboard and Lenore bangs on the bongos. They sing upbeat tunes about bomb threats, suicide, ethnic cleansing, Afghanistan and the overpopulation of India.

Vancouver-based playwright Tom Cone makes a profound statement with overtly and unabashedly racist characters. Actors Billy Marchenski and Linda Quibell accomplish the difficult task of infusing humour and charm into touchy politically incorrect themes and, at times, roving text.

The play heats up when they come to the realization that there is no one in the audience. With nothing else to occupy them, they reflect on their past lives. Lenore’s glory days of making love against a vending machine that spews out coins during the act. Donald discloses his prison rape by a man he grew to love.

Hearing more announcements of grounded flights, they suspect their days of hula are numbered and opt to make pornography. During a daringly raw moment where Lenore feigns climax, they break into song. The scene is made more absurd considering the dinner theatre seating arrangement. The hilarity hits a pinnacle when Lenore entertains a lone aroused customer with an erotic invocation on the drums while Donald lashes out in a jealous tirade.

As the airport evacuate, they consider their uncertain future. Lenore lives in the dressing room and has no home and Donald could go back to jail. At Lenore’s prompting Donald leaves, returning to tell her his escape plan. Lenore can’t face the music of the real world and, like a washed up Laura in The Glass Menagerie, refuses to leave. The ending requires more work and feels as if Cone didn’t quite know where to leave off, opting for a disappointing bound and gagged routine.

Donald and Lenore
is produced by Felix Culpa for the Chutzpah! Festival. It runs from March 7 to 20 at the Wosk cabaret theatre of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

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