Sunday, January 13, 2013

First impression review: Sudden Death

Written by: Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman
Directed by: Matthew Mackenzie
Starring: Layne Coleman, Brett Donahue, Greg Gale, Tony Nappo, Melissa-Jane Shaw,
Andrew Shaver, Maria Vacratsis
At: The Factory Theatre for the Next Stage Festival

Reviewed by: Ashley Williamson

Play at a Glance

Former NHL enforcer John (Tony Nappo) is getting ready for a big meeting with the Oilers that might resuscitate his nearly dead hockey career.  As he psychs himself up with steroids shots, cocaine and his new "creme" suit, he is alternately visited by the women in his life (his mum, played by Maria Vacratsis, and his girl, played by Melissa-Jane Shaw) and by hallucinations of his Junior Hockey coach (Layne Coleman) and the Great One himself (Brett Donahue).  The audience follows along with the enthusiastic help of sports broadcasters, Bob (Greg Gale) and Larry (Andrew Shaver).

First Impression

Nappo's performance of the insecure, drug addled John is excellent.  He manages to balance the frenetic energy of an angry hockey goon with genuine charm and softness.  His performance made me believe that John just might pull himself together in the end.  Shaver and Gale are pitch perfect in their send up of cliché-mangling, stats-spouting sportscasters. They offer before-show banter (complete with an audience-participation rendition of O Canada), between-period interviews with the cast, and a final comment on the play's events.  Finally, Donahue's satire of Gretzky as the Jesus of Hockey is delightful if not a bit sacrilegious for a hockey fan who is old enough have owned a child-sized 99 jersey.


The stripper-club flashback scene in which Melissa-Jane Shaw's Cindy delivers an acrobatic but totally impassive dance set to Warrant's Cherry Pie to a chatty, vulnerable, and disarming John was the best scene in the play.

The nitpicks

Initially it was not clear if Maria Vacratsis as John's mum was actually in his hotel room or only a hallucination.  Although the sportscasters claimed that the first hallucination of  the play was the coach I still wasn't convinced the only real people in the hotel room that night weren't just John and Cindy.

Audience's instant reaction
To start:  A willing and boisterous singing of the national anthem.
To finish: A Whoo hoo, with a scattered but enthusiastic ovation.

Critic's instant reaction:

Three and a half stars


Anonymous said...

The announcers said that the scene where "Coach" speaks to Kordic was the play's first "flashback", NOT the first hallucination. Scenes where Kordic's mother harangues him but remains unseen by Cindy prove conclusively she is only in Kordic's head.

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