That Darn Plot : cleverly constructed and enjoyable play about playwriting

Reviewed by Iris Winston

“Write about what you know.”

Edmonton-based playwright David Belke follows the commonly offered advice to writers and passes it on to his protagonist in his 1998 comedy That Darn Plot.

The playwright-within-the play about writing a play, Mark W. Transom, sleep deprived and half drunk, has one night to deliver a script. If he fails, he will not only betray the trust that his former girlfriend, Jo, placed in him, but will also cause her to lose her job as artistic director of the theatre waiting for the new Transom season opener.

The concept allows Belke to muse on the craft of playwriting and, through Ivy, the rule-driven stage manager, on the minutiae of Equity rules. It also offers the chance to demonstrate another commonly held belief about playwriting: that the characters sometimes take over and change the direction of the plot, periodically even introducing a new character and arguing with the writer. That Darn Plot includes all this in a cleverly constructed — although somewhat repetitive — storyline.

In the Rural Root Theatre Company production, despite the confines of a cluttered set, director Ron Gardner makes good use of the connection between Transom busily typing his characters’ lines and their interaction with each other and with him.

As the beleaguered playwright, Ivo Mokros is convincing in his frustration with the process of writing and his annoyance with the characters he created and with the extra person, who apparently popped out of his subconscious.

While most of the characterizations tend to be one-note — partly because of the way the script is constructed — the cast members are generally clear in their intent. It would, however, be advisable for Justin Veale to tone down his stereotyped caricature of a gay character if his later romantic intentions are to have any credibility.

Keeping other activities in line with the script also affects overall credibility. For example, if a character is said to have produced new pages for the script on a computer, he should not be working at a typewriter. (On checking, I was told that this was what Belke called for in the prop notes, but the theatre company should feel free to correct inconsistencies of this type.)

In general, however, the Rural Root production of That Darn Plot delivers an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

That Darn Plot continues at the Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre to May 30.

That Darn Plot

By David Belke

Rural Root Theatre Company

Director and set designer: Ron Gardner

Lighting and sound: Andy Roberts, Serena Swain-Smith, Martin Weeden

Costumes: Lois Thompson

Cast:

Mark W. Transom…………………………..Ivo Mokros

Jo Harber……………………………………Tracy Facchin

Geoffrey Regeant……………………………Lee Powell

Ivy Schreiver………………………………..Lisa Maranta

Russell Croft…………………………………Justin Veale

Lloyd Transom………………………………Peter Veale


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