A Night of Vicious Entertainment
The Chamber Theatre takes its audience through a labyrinth of alienation and immorality in their production of David Mamet’s “Edmond” at the Carleton Tavern. Bored with his wife anti-hero Edmond rejects convention soon finding himself mired in a world of depravity. Throughout his descent he argues and cries plaintively that the price is too high and the transaction misunderstood. Via seedy bars, peep shows and massage parlours, he is outplayed by card sharks and hustlers alike as slowly, deftly, the rage within this everyman is awakened.
Edmond’s struggle to take control of his destiny, unmute his life, get laid, gain the upper-hand leaves him exposed, exploited and further unbalanced. A pawn-shop transaction arms him, an ingeniously-staged subway ride infuriates him while a pimp pushes a con too far and an encounter with a hapless waitress leaves Edmond maniacally transformed shedding his meek veneer in a cascade of bigoted temper with murderous intent.
Director Donnie Laflamme in the role of Edmond Burke maintains the powerhouse performance necessary for this work. His urgent frustration, rage, and fear of foul play are never forced. The racist, misogynistic vitriol he spouts is genuinely unhinged as he unwittingly spirals further out of control.
The production works on many level; it’s well cast, evenly paced and exploits the miniscule set to intensify the claustrophobic drama within Edmond’s mind. Players file to the stage in a robotic automaton trance echoing detachment before revealing vibrant underworld characters. Facing the audience rather than one another to deliver lines resolves the problems of potential blocking while augmenting the sense of isolation. The outward facing delivery mirrors the self-conscious, self-serving nature within each character. Minimal props are effective and suggestive in particular chain links pounded against the floor for dreadful effect.
Cast members take on multiple characters. Bob Reynolds stands out in a series of pivotal roles; the business man steering Edmond to vice, the owner of the pawnshop that arms the protagonist, the Irish cop that sees plainly through plaintive excuses. Jennifer Vallance and Leslie Cserepy inject the play with much-needed respite clearly relishing turns as a peep show dancer, card shark and fever-pitched preacher. Only Burke’s wife (Manon Dumas) lacks clarity of character causing the piece to falter dangerously towards its conclusion. Despite this lull Edmond’s descent in to his prison hell continues apace with a captivating performance by Karl Claude alongside Laflamme drawing the production to a strikingly visceral conclusion as the virtual curtain falls.
The rather ramshackle Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg doesn’t detract from the experience as small threadbare joints seem to be where theatrical gems reside. In the spirit of theatre found Off-Broadway and away from London’s West End this is an off-kilter playhouse production that takes risks and delivers gratifyingly talented results.
223 Armstrong St, Ottawa, ON K1Y 2W5
3-6 and 11-13 April 2013