Having recently read Call of the Wild and Barometer Rising back to back, I had a hankering to see some sort of community theatre play that combined both the intrigue of the Klondike with the historical relevance of the East Coast in Canada’s early post-confederation history (I can’t not give a mention to Quiet Courage which premiered as well last fall). Not just Halifax and Charlottetown, but even the farthest reaches of Cape Breton Island were considered very cosmopolitan in the early 20th century. It’s funny how things have started working out for me since I started reading Eckhart Tolle and doing the Hare Krishna mantra because…..along came Tainted Justice!
The plot follows handsome polygamist and all round scam artist, Frank (Chris O’Bray – LURCH from The Addam’s Family Musical *can you believe it*) as he sits in a jail cell awaiting trial for the murder of local innkeeper Ben Boring (Dennis Mockler, who is so good at his part he could impersonate Stephen Harper for a living.) And no, by the way, not Frank Abagnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can, but a very similar type of guy and dare I say it… Chris O’Bray who I LITERALLY just saw in another demanding role only three weeks ago is much more devilishly charming than Mr.Dicaprio turned out to be in his old age, and from my own front row experience, I can tell you Chris is a very versatile actor!
Without giving away too much of the premise, there is much more to this twisted story than meets the eye. My advice for seeing this play is: If you started to feel creeped out and uneasy by the end of Act I – you’re not wrong; You’ve “got the plot”. I’m not even approaching this topic any further because I don’t want our blog to get banned from WordPress. Please keep it to yourself while enjoying the delicious coffee and snacks at intermission and don’t spoil it for others!
Katherine Anne Fairfoul as Tena the philandering housewife turned “not so grieving widow” gives a standout performance in a role not often given to women; That of a well respected, lecherous cad. She reminded me of Jill Abbott on The Young and The Restless although her acting was remarkably similar to the lesser known Y&R actress, Judith Chapman who plays the even more shameless, Gloria on the once legendary Soap Opera.
Jess L. Callaghan’s performance as Pearl, Tena and Ben’s daughter, comes off very hard and stony, which at first really had me puzzled, but once I realized that she is the only person in town who can see beneath her mother’s innocent veneer, I immediately understood her resentment.
Rob Candy, one of the first actors I ever saw on the community theatre stage in Toronto does a great job as the straight man throughout the whole affair who then suddenly turns on the total creep factor near the end.
Peta Mary Bailey was lovely as Maudie and I really enjoyed her singing and piano playing which wasn’t overpowering but gentle enough to fit the venue. (I still want to see Peta break out in a villain role though! This is the third time in a year I have seen her play a very nice character!)
This semi-historical thriller by Don Nigro has the most twists, turns and nuances of any “thriller” that the theatre community has promised so far this season and although it took me quite awhile to write this review because I was slightly confused – I found the confusion refreshing because let’s face it: If Norm Foster is Canada’s Neil Simon then Nigro is our M. Night Shyamalan. *edit* – Ok so he’s not even Canadian!
Director, Victoria Shepherd does a fantastic job of making this play as NOT confusing as possible which was a difficult task with such a small space and sparse set. The “flashbacks” at times, were as seamless and unjarring as they are on film (to me at least) – so hats off to her for this achievement.
I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – but Tainted Justice could make a GREAT film!
TAINTED JUSTICE runs until March 24 at the Village Playhouse in Bloor West Village – Just East of Runnymede Station.
For tickets and more information call 416-767-7702 or visit: www.villageplayers.net