Frederic Wood Theatre

Valerie Laub's Sleeping Dogs

Venue: Frederic Wood Theatre, University of British Columbia

Dates:9, 11, 17, and 22-25 August 2001

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

Do parents ever understand their children? Do children ever understand their parents? If you want to think about this age old question, go see Sleeping Dogs. You will find yourself sitting on an uncomfortable chair on the stage watching a self-conscious brother and sister tidy up their parents' home after the parents' suicides and funeral. Not perhaps the most enticing subject for a summer's evening, Valerie Laub endeavour to elucidate the mysteries of parental behaviour as it appears to the children, and the children try to unravel all those unexplained scenes of their growing- up years.

In a Southern Ontario vicarage, Ruth (Caroline Thompsom) and David (Doug Richard) rummage through their childhood home, discovering long hidden letters and papers that reveal the sins of the father that partially explain the explosive accusations that the mother has heaped upon the children in remembered childhood fracas. Watching this and sometimes joining in, but rarely speaking are Pa and Ma, the Reverend Eric (John Harris) and Margaret (Nancy Bell). On an upstage rostrum the ghosts of Pa and Ma agonizingly relive their lives as the children reveal the secrets of the past. And what secrets: homosexuality, incest, deception, self-pity, and revenge, and desperate endeavours to put things right.

The script of this play needs more editing. Some scenes are too long drawn out, and some questions posed left unanswered or disregarded. The four actors are four very definite characters well delineated and well thought out. The influence of the mother on daughter and father on son is echoed in the excellent miming of the "ghosts," and the remembered passionate scenes of the past are powerfully played by all four actors. The final cross-characterisation episode is confusing and not entirely convincing, but the fault lies not in the acting but the writing.

As an exploration of family relationships, the play attempts to show that when the sleeping dogs of past family scandals are roused, ultimate understanding and reconciliation between generations may be attained. Perhaps ....

Sleeping Dogs runs at the Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC, 6354 Crescent Road, on 9, 11, 17, and 22-25 August 2001, at 19.00. Tickets: $8/10. Reservations: 604.822.0762.

© 2001, Jane Penistan

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