1 min

Striking women

The Vic's strong vision marred by awkward dialogue

VICTIMIZING? Marie-Josee Lefebvre and Moynan King show us what violence can do. Credit: Xtra files

What makes someone a victim or a victimizer – is it just bad luck or a psychological predisposition? Playwright Leanna Brodie avoids easy, comforting answers as she explores this volatile question in The Vic.

In the play, eight women are involved in various intertwined relationships. Spud, a dyke and ex-alcoholic, tries to overcome her abusive past and build a stable relationship with her self-involved academic girlfriend, Elise.

Meanwhile, earnest international development worker and do-gooder Henley has returned from Indonesia to help her mother care for her little sister Tanis, who is emotionally exhausted after escaping from a religious cult.

Henley’s childhood friend Cheryl, an ambitious young filmmaker, encounters subtle and insidious domination at the hands of her racist boss and mentor Darsana Colhoun.

Then there’s teenage Cara, whose video diary chronicles the struggles to define her maturing sexuality in a dangerous world.

This first play from actress and translator Leanna Brodie is smart and emotionally believable. Her use of female characters as perpetrators as well as victims defies conventional portrayals of helpless femininity, at the same time as acknowledging the reality that many women face danger every day.

Unfortunately, Brodie’s craft as a writer is not yet as strong as her vision or ideas. The dialogue is often stiff and many of the most powerful scenes occur off-stage and are only recounted after the fact in prose-like monologues.

The failings of the script are not helped by the lack of aesthetic appeal. There is no soundscape and, in a rare misstep, the talented designer Steve Lucas has created a bland and unappealing set. The characters have intense tales to tell, but the weak production deadens what could be a gripping story from start to finish.

Still, all eight members of the cast are talented performers who clearly believe in the importance of the subject they are exploring. The strong ensemble mines the script for its underlying honesty and intensity.

Moynan King shines as the utterly believable sexy, street-smart Spud and Ann Holloway is riveting as the caustic, successful director Darsana Colhoun.

But it is Majorie Chan, in the relatively small role of teenaged Cara, whose unpretentious performance breathes the most naturalness and grace into the production.

The Vic continues until Sun, Dec 3 at Theatre Passe Murraile (16 Ryerson Ave); call (416) 504-PLAY.