By Reggie Oliver
Linden House Theatre Company
Directed by Robin Bowditch
There are the words you say, the words you wish you had said and the enhanced version of events resulting from the imagined conversation.
This is the theme of Reggie Oliver’s 1987 comedy Imaginary Lines. At times, the format, combined with the breaking down of the fourth wall as characters address the audience directly, works well. More of the time, the device is tiresome and slows or confuses the action. But, the miscommunication and replays of conversations are apparently needed to pad the action in a script with a thin and somewhat unappealing storyline.
The central character is Wanda, a book illustrator, who tries to make her friends fit into her imagined scenarios. Involved with her and each other are: Howard, a shy bookstore owner looking for a girlfriend; Michael, a randy MP; Carol, an outspoken, unemployed teacher; and Olga, a gossip and writer of children’s books.
The Linden House Theatre Company production, directed by Robin Bowditch, delivers a group of characterizations that are true to type, but, mainly because of the one-note, single-joke nature of Oliver’s script, tend to have only one defining characteristic. Only Venetia Lawless makes her characterization as Carol rounded and interesting because she tempers anger with warmth and hope for a better outcome.
Geoffrey Gruson looks and moves convincingly as the blustering and opportunistic Sir Michael but can make little more of the thinly written character. Similarly, Janet Uren has little to work with in a peripheral role. Her character’s main purpose seems to be to overhear and report an apparently incriminating conversation between Michael and Howard for future double entendres and miscommunication.
An additional problem with this is that Oliver does not establish why Michael would visit Howard’s bookstore to ask for his advice when they apparently hardly know each other. Neither does the budding romance between Howard and Carol have any foreshadowing in a script that is focused on the triple-layer conversation joke and general miscommunication.
As Howard, Kurt Shantz delivers a strong performance as the socially awkward bookseller anxious for his fantasies of romantic involvement to become reality. Meanwhile, as Wanda, Jennifer Sheffield must manipulate those who surround her, if they are to transform her imaginary lines into fact. While she appears clear about her motivation, she is not always successful either in controlling the other characters or in giving her character an aura of strength.
Imaginary Lines is confirmation that a quality script needs much more than one funny idea to make it worthwhile theatre.
The Linden House Theatre Company production of Imaginary Lines continues to November 12.
Direction and lighting: Robin Bowditch
Set: Rachel Hauraney
Costumes: Monica Browness and Jane Sadler
Sound: Bob McKellar
Mrs. Burlap……………………..Janet Uren
Sir Michael Thurston…………..Geoffrey Gruson