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|Written by Wayne Current|
|Thursday, 04 March 2010 00:00|
Chamber Theatre Hintonburg is known for putting on plays at both the Carleton and Elmdale taverns. This model has been successful in allowing them to tap into audiences different from those at traditional theatres. For High Life, Chamber Theatre has chosen to put the show on at the Hintonburg Community Center instead of the usual taverns. I really like the concept of tavern theatre, so I was a little disappointed at the change in venue; however, the center does function quite adequately as a theatre space. For those that enjoy a glass of wine at intermission, it's worth noting that alcohol will not be offered at all the performances. The performances at which alcoholic drinks will be available for sale are marked with an asterisk on the company's website.
Lee MacDougall's High Life tells the story of a motley crew of four criminals and their most recent heist. Like many caper films and plays, all four of these characters are deeply flawed. Bug (Matt Smith) has severe anger management issues and is constantly on the edge of violence. Billy (Garret Quirk) is cocky and arrogant. Donnie (Tim Finnigan) should really be in a hospital bed rather than on a heist. Dick (Mark Muntean), the leader of the group, is an astonishingly poor judge of character and is easily thrown off by minor obstacles interfering with his "perfect plan."MacDougall has provided four interesting characters, and the first act where they are introduced is quite engaging, as the stage is set for the heist. Unfortunately, the second act has little character development, and the heist unravels in a very predictable manner. The characters have nowhere to go: Bug is even closer to violence, Donnie is even more ill, and Billy is still arrogant. This genre works best when the character development is at the forefront throughout the show. MacDougall concentrates a little too much on the foibles of the group rather than the characters themselves.
On opening night, Tim Finnigan put in a very strong performance as the severely ill Donnie. Matt Smith, as Bug, was also compelling for much of the show, but, by the end, Bug's explosive anger seemed a little two dimensional.
Lesley Hay did a great job with makeup. Both Donnie and Bug are missing teeth and have the bruises and haggard looks of drug addicts. Mark Muntean could have used similar touches -- he looks more like a young bureaucrat rather than a jail-hardened criminal. This is problematic, as Dick's motivation for bringing in Billy is that a teller "would hit the panic button" as soon as he (or the others) walked into a bank.
While MacDougall's High Life is probably not the best example of this genre, those who enjoy stories about criminals attempting to pull off the perfect crime should check out Chamber Theatre Hintonburg's latest production.