Dark se­crets in the ’burbs

Edmonton Journal - - THE FRINGE 2009 -

This gen­uinely strange lit­tle twohan­der by Trevor Sch­midt opens with a styl­ized fam­ily por­trait: the per­fect 1950s cou­ple, per­fectly dressed and per­fectly posed, ex­cept for the odd side­ways flick­er­ing of the wife’s eyes. Some­thing ter­ri­ble has hap­pened in their per­fect sub­ur­ban cul-de-sac. Their kid has mys­te­ri­ously van­ished through the open win­dow of his up­stairs bed­room dur­ing a cock­tail party be­low.

Loss, grief, mu­tual ac­cu­sa­tions would seem to be the story here, at least at first. Iris (Tiana Leonty), the suf­fo­cat­ing mom who talks too fast and too much, re­calls the day’s de­tails in two en­tirely op­po­site ways. Hank (Cody Porter), a man of per­fect ’50s sen­si­bil­ity — he calls his son the “lit­tle man” and loves hav­ing a boy “to teach not to cry and how to box” — re­mem­bers the fate­ful day oth­er­wise. They blame each other for ru­in­ing the sub­ur­ban dream.

The odd path of Sch­midt’s play is the way that Iris and Hank’s own glossy ’50s fairy tale turns out to be a ver­sion of Hansel and Gre­tel. Witches lurk at ev­ery ad­dress; houses are made of ginger­bread. Have the par­ents, like the Wood­cut­ter, sent their own child out into the woods, to be at the mercy of a Witch with come-hither candy? Are Ivy and Hank them­selves Hansel and Gre­tel, per­haps, as they visit their neigh­bours, un­nerved by the dark se­crets and mys­ter­ies be­hind ev­ery door? There’s a kind of sur­real buzz about the ’hood, its mar­riages, the dy­namic of its com­pet­ing claims of suc­cess.

It’s an at­mo­spheric play, di­rected with high-style flour­ishes by the play­wright. The brit­tle cor­dial­ity of Leonty paired with a kind of thug­gish suavity from Porter keeps doubt, and a whole range of sin­is­ter pos­si­bil­i­ties, alive.

SUP­PLIED

Tiana Leonty and Cody Porter in Mock­ing­bird Close

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