Beyond a Joke: Where Suspension of disbelief is really stretched.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Talk about the willing suspension of disbelief. Derek Benfield’s Beyond a Joke requires acceptance of a concept stretched to the limit of credibility and beyond.

Six people have died suddenly while working at Jane and Andrew’s country house in England. Unfortunate accidents, it seems, but little wonder their daughter’s fiancé suspects murderous intent. And when the body count goes up, his suspicion seems justified.

It is extremely challenging for actors trying to maintain a semblance of normality in such a setup, even with a realistic and workable indoor/outdoor set, designed by Paul Gardner. All but one of the cast of the Ottawa Little Theatre production directed by Dorothy Ann Gardner rise to the challenge to some degree, but only one is entirely believable throughout and completely at ease with the Oscar Wilde comedic style of making the insignificant important and vice versa.

Sarah Hearn plays Andrew’s sister with total assurance as a pragmatic, no-nonsense woman, ready to roll up her sleeves to dispose of dead bodies or sit in an oasis of calm reading the newspaper.

At the other end of the spectrum (and almost seeming to be in a different play) Seamus O’Brien models his version of the suspicious boyfriend as an annoyingly over-the-top Mr. Bean type, complete with constant mugging and repetitive gestures.

Much of the responsibility for the diversity in performance styles must be placed at the feet of the director, as must the unflattering costuming of some of the characters, designed by Bonnie Lynch. The director’s decision not to Canadianize the script (e.g. to leave such terms as the ‘boot’ rather than the ‘trunk’ of a car) is reasonable, but would be more effective if all the accents were in sync.

However, after swallowing the unlikely premise, audiences will undoubtedly enjoy the joke of Beyond a Joke.

Beyond a Joke continues at Ottawa Little Theatre to May 19.

Beyond a Joke

An Ottawa Little Theatre Production

By Derek Benfield

Director: Dorothy Ann Gardner

Set: Paul Gardner

Lighting; Barry Sims

Sound: Mike Heffernan

Costumes: Bonnie Lynch

Cast:

Jane……………………………………….Jane Morris

Andrew……………………………………Mike Kennedy

Geoff………………………………………Seamus O’Brien

Sally……………………………………….Kelly Fuoco

Sarah………………………………………Sarah Hearn

Vicar:………………………………………Stephen Liddiard

Audrey……………………………………..Danielle Silverman

Edgar……………………………………….Allan MacDonald


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