Lives in turmoil in these Suburban Motel plots
BY LIZ NICHOLLS, EDMONTON JOURNAL
“A slightly rundown motel room, on the outskirts of a large city.”
That’s the setting for each of the six full-length one-act black comedies in George F. Walker’s 1997-1998 Suburban Motel cycle: a transitional space, “a drab, camouflaged circle of hell with an ice machine” as one of Walker’s most experienced directors Daniel De Raey puts it. Characters whose lives are in turmoil come and go; they make big, crazy plans; they improvise; they return to regroup. Three of the six premièred in New York at Rattlestick Productions directed by De Raey, three at Factory Theatre in Walker’s home town, Toronto, directed by the playwright.
1. Problem Child: Denise, a former prostitute and junkie, and her boyfriend RJ, out of the slammer and addicted to daytime TV, are holed up in the motel room. They’re battling a purse-lipped and sanctimonious social worker to get their child back from The System.
2. Adult Entertainment: Max and Jayne are having sex in the motel room: one’s a burnt-out cop and the other a public defender and they both have an agenda beyond getting laid. Meanwhile, the cop’s booze-soaked, unravelling partner waits outside in his car. Things go wildly awry.
3. Criminal Genius: A father-son pair of career criminals prove absolutely hopeless at executing anything as complicated as arson, and unleash more chaos by means of their strict policy of non-violence. Violence ensues. So do some hilarious analyses of group dynamics and the apportioning of blame in our society. “When was the last time I did something and got away with it? There’s always some kind of punishment. ... Why is that?”
4. Featuring Loretta: The title character, a server in the hospitality industry, wants to jump-start her life; her husband has been eaten by a bear. Now she’s being pulled apart by a whiny would-be boyfriend, and a slick guy for whom Lorrie figures prominently in his big pornography plans. Figuring in the plot is Lorrie’s friendship with the Russian physics student whose ex-KGB dad owns the motel.
5. The End of Civilization: In the most scathing social satire of the cycle, Henry has been bounced from his job, and his middle-class life, and has ended up in the motel room. While he looks for work, with increasing desperation and outrage about the infinite ruthlessness of corporate greed, he takes up a more available line of work, thanks to the hooker next door. Presiding over the murder case that may or may not implicate Henry are a couple of mismatched cops with issues of their own. “It’s like the Grapes of Wrath out there. People walking around like they’re the victims of some huge cataclysm. All slouched over. Muttering to themselves ...”
6. Risk Everything: In this, the most farcical of the cycle, RJ and Denise from Problem Child are still in the motel room, joined by Denise’s mom, who seems to have been beaten up. It turns out that the “victim” is outrageously brazen about drawing everyone around into her chaotic life, which involves gambling, stealing, and drug deals.
In Punctuate! Theatre’s Suburban Motel project, all six plays alternate in rep at C103
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