Soulpepper begins their fall programming with their third remount of Molnar's convention-breaking, The Play's The Thing. Translated by P.G. Wodehouse, audiences are brought into the opulent world of elite culture, comedy and drama with this classic spin on a conversation gone wrong.
Upon walking into the theatre, you just know this is going to be good. Three men enter the stage, light their cigarettes and immediately break the fourth wall. Dramatist duo, Sandor Turai (Diego Matamoros) and Mansky (William Webster) visit an Italian castle with their young composer, Albert Adam (Gordon Hecht). Heartbreak and unrest erupts when the trio overhears Albert's fiance, Ilona Szabo (Raquel Duffy) in a heated conversation with her previous love affair, Almady (C. David Johnson).
Molnar's writing is beyond cleverly instilled with the ongoing comedy and resolution of this tour de force. The idea behind this play is derived from an actual situation where Molnar overheard his wife professing a love scene to her German tutor. The witty Turai adopts a plot, writes a play and reunites the two lovers in what could have been an unfortunate ending for the young Romeo. Packed full of theatrical humour and genius direction, the entire ensemble delivers from curtain to curtain making every moment worth the watch.
Victoria Wallace's costume and scenic design screams intelligence, glamour and luxury - standing alone as a true feature of the production. Although a timeless production, Wallace's scenic work and detailed pieces bring the era into perspective. You know it's a play and yet you somehow feel part of the castle, free to ring on Johann the butler (Oliver Dennis) and indulge in the splendor of champagne and brandy.
Using the play-within-a-play model, Molnar's sophisticated style of writing shines through with László Marton's exceptional direction. Conventions are broken both verbally and visually from the beginning as a reminder of our role as the audience. It isn't often that we go to the theatre only to realize our true purpose for being there and this is something that Soulpepper has done tremendously well. I don't usually see a show twice, but I would ultimately consider having fun with this one again.
The Play's the Thing runs at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Oct. 14. For more information visit soulpepper.ca.
photo credit: Cylla von Tiedeman