By the glow of a red light you enter a crime scene. A young woman in a red hooded sweater lies beside an empty pill bottle with newspapers scattered across the floor and printed clippings pasted on the wall. There are unlocked doors, no tracks and pentagon shapes strewn throughout the room. What is the story behind the murder? The five w’s and one h are teased out X-files-style through the stellar production of SLIP, by Circlesnake Productions.
Two Toronto detectives Mark (Daniel Pagett) and Lynne (Alex Paxton-Beesley) have to crack the case of a dead body found in an apartment. In the intimate venue of 89 Niagara St. we discover just as much about the victim as the detectives on the case.
The corpse is that of Jane (Mikaela Dyke) and the story behind her death takes twists and turns as the script jumps to and fro under the skillful direction of Alec Toller. We eagerly learn the personal and professional challenges faced by Mark and Lynne. With help from introspective flashes to Jane’s past, the two stories come together in a polished critique of the detectives' lives.
Remembering details becomes a major theme of the play as the detectives retrace Jane’s life and navigate their own undoing as a team. Melissa Joakim assists in these seamless script transitions by juxtaposing pale blue hues and severe red lighting with excellent timing.
Mark has been appointed as lead detective, though he and Lynne both know that Lynne would fare better calling the shots. Both of the detectives prove themselves to be more than your average desk jockey, but Mark can’t seem to think outside of the box. The two use a point system to keep track of the acute and imaginative motives and fatal action leading up to Jane’s death.
The other actors provide the background, embellishing the narrative with poised links between the case and how the detectives interpret the case. Paloma Nuñez plays Jane’s ex-girlfriend who has lost touch with Jane and the head boss who tries to regain the detectives’ focus and touch up on Lynne’s professionalism. Anders Yates plays Jane’s tormented and sadistic brother and the unit’s forensic pathologist who makes flamboyant chit-chat about how disgusting his job is. The humour in the play is subtle and dark, which is a nice change from all of the campy T.V. crime shows.
Paxton-Beesley and Pagett, have quite the chemistry on stage. In just 70 minutes I became quite attached to the characters and secretly found myself rooting for a romantic relationship to blossom. Of course that intimacy almost takes place on a physical level, but the characters begin to create something far more powerful. On a more emotional level, the characters bond over the uncertainty of the case as the action spirals out of control. Pagett appears down-to-earth and protective of his friend and his co-worker, while Paxton-Beesley compliments him with her sharpshooting detective skills and self-doubt.
In the crucial final 20 minutes of the show, the pieces start to fall into place. We hear the sad backstory of a girl desperately trying to remember her place and worth. The two plots come together and collide as one. The piece becomes a heart-wrenching tribute to an incurable disease.
The play uses a bookend trope where Mark asks Lynne to tell him a story. He likens Jane’s early on-set dementia with Lynne’s PTSD. The ending is built up, but as Mark and Lynne complete one another’s thoughts the delivery is well worth the suspense.
The audience appeared to like the show as much as I did, and there were even a few people who clapped at Mark and Lynne’s banter.
SLIP is a gem in Toronto’s indie theatre scene. I look forward to seeing more from Circlesnake.
Circlesnake’s SLIP runs at The Box Toronto, 89 Niagara St., until Feb. 7. For more information visit http://www.circlesnake.com/.