What do you get when you have six quirky musicians with stagnant careers and active libidos penned in a motel during a blizzard? You get one hell of a side-splitting theatre show worth the effort it took for you to drag yourself out of the house and into the November cold. Morris Panych’s Sextet is an undeniably clever farce that is sure to strike a chord with any classical music enthusiast. Employing embedded analogies, the structure of the play parallels the fast-pace complexity of Schoenberg’s chamber music (yes, Sextet somehow engenders humour from Schoenberg).
The 90-minute show explores the correlation between music and sexuality as each cast member swiftly moves from room to room laughing, singing, crying and touching in a whirlwind of motivations. Amidst the chaos, be prepared to follow agile dialogue and tangled plot containing polygamy, pregnancy, failed marriage, sexual tension, charades and brief nudity.
The cookie-cutter motel set grants visual stability for an audience wading through the emotional turmoil of not-so-stable characters such as Mavis, a darker and deceptive delivery by Rebecca Northan. Enlightened by her religious understanding of procreation, Mavis is caught between her not-so-frisky husband Gerard (Bruce Dow) and her neurotic sperm donor and admirer Otto (Jordan Pettle).
Damien Atkins perfectly captures “the oxford comma of sexuality” and steals the show through his performance as Harry, the intellectual, closeted gay member of the group, performing in his last tour — “but don’t tell anybody.” While Harry is eccentrically infatuated with the oxymoronic, but handsome Dirk (Matthew Edison), Sylvia (Laura Condlln) an off-kilter feminist, anxiously awaits (with a touque over her face) for an opportune moment to disclose her true feelings for Harry.
Although the play did not require actors to play their musical instruments on stage, I would have enjoyed more music during transitions to foreshadow events and enhance the mood.
As the show winds down, the pace slows and attention is directed to Harry’s monologue, which provides the audience with a beautiful take home message of succession and failure in a personal journey of understanding sexuality.
Sexet is playing at Tarragon Theatre until Dec. 14. For more information, visit tarragontheatre.com.
Photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann