Ottawa Fringe 2011. Complex Numbers is Titillation for the Gullible

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

A bit of Fringe fluff written only with the audience in mind. But isn’t all Fringe theatre written to please an audience you might ask?  Of course it is, but in this case  the desire to please  is masked by a pretext of investigating the idea of non-monogomous marriage, whereas the real play is aimed at titillating a rather gullible audience. And the guffaws around me at the strategic moments in the conversation proved my point.

Fiona and Alex form a chic young urban couple of professionals. Both are  presented as well educated and smart individuals. He teaches English and she is a Computer programmer and they have decided to have an open relationship in a very rational way. The have laid down the appropriate laws and defined the  theories that justify this behaviour,just to make sure it will work. Every move must be planned. Every act must be approved, and above all, there must be no lying, no cheating.

Of course Fiona is a super whiz in her work and in fact, she has just solved a most  complex software problem  but because she has had to spend long hours in the office with  Dan a co-worker,  she finds herself becoming too involved with this slightly sloppy fellow sporting  a very strong libido.

It quickly becomes clear however that all this set up is only a pretext to get to the real meat of the show:  Sexy talk, titillating discussions about open marriage, gratuitis vulgarity that has absolutely no function in this play , contrary to Fucking Stephen Harper where the “colourful”  language is central to the energy and the  anger that are the very soul of this performance.  And what a performance!! 

On the other hand, Complex numbers has no anger, it has a very weak almost trite premise, what really matters is the degree of vulgarity necessary to   impress the audience.  In spite of all the discussion concerning freedom, honesty, need for change and common approval, Fiona finds that she is really becoming more deeply involved with her co-worker. Alex her husband on the other hand fears his marriage is dissolving and  that brings back frightening childhood memories.

Neither of them  appear to  really understand what it is they are doing? That is what seems so empty and annoying  after all this talk about ideas, and laws of behaviour, all grounded in the serious image of  woman standing  behind a scrim and reading  from a learned book.  Fiona is actually  a phony and Alex is a weakling allowing his wife  to lead him around by the nose. .   She is not the bright computer whizz we assume she is. She is really a fluffy fiddle head completely out of touch with her own feelings as well as  a compulsive  liar.  What was the point of these  characters then?  They  made no sense at all and put the  whole premise of the play completely out of focus. .

Entertainment for  who then?  Im not sure. . I must say that the loud guffaws in the audience, every time references were made to certain body parts, suggested it was the beer drinkers  in the back room or the closet key hole peekers in the street.  Pure titillation for a bunch of repressed adolescents who seemed to be snuggling up to each other in the audience as the heat rose. Nothing wrong with that  mind you  but don’t pretend it’s a discussion about  monogamy. Its nothing of the sort.   Complex numbers is glib, silly, full of clichés a déjà vu plot lead by  totally  empty characters.  When Julian Beck got all his actors naked in the streets of New York and Avignon, he shocked a lot of people but they were trying to say something about a decadent  culture that allowed itself to be involved in an immoral war. When Fiona and Dan rip off their clothes and start having fun in a corner, their motives are much less lofty!  They just want to shift partners  to get gasps and laughs. Sorry, not good enough. ..

..

Never mind though, The whole cast seemed to be having fun. But who wouldn’t have fun working with a superbly sensitive and talented director like Ken Godmere? 

Written by Nadine Thornhill, directed by Ken Godmere.  Complex Numbers plays in Academic Hall.


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