Maryanne RenzettiStaircase XI Theatre
Evelyn Strange by Stewart Lemoine

Dates and Venue 23 March – 2 April 2011, 8pm (Sat matinee at 2pm)| Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The mandate to do Canadian plays is a noble one, and I admire this small theatre company based here in Vancouver to let internet readers around the world know that we do have Canadian playwrights like the indefatigable Edmontonian Stewart Lemoine who jas been cranking out plays and producing them in Edmonton for the past 30 years.

This company was founded by Becky Shrimpton and Maryanne Renzetti, graduates of the University of British Columbia’s BFA Acting Program while training at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. In the 2010 Vancouver Fringe, they presented Will Eno's Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions.

Evelyn Strange follows the film noir of those popular detective shows of the 40s and 50s--Ellery Queen, Phillip Marlowe, Peter Gunn, Martin Kane, Perry Mason, etc. In this play, Lemoine puts a tongue-in-cheek comedic twist to his murder mystery play set in New York in 1955.

The play opens in a private box at the Metropolitan opera before Wagner's opera, Siegfried, starts. We see Perry Spangler (Byron Noble), a Mr. Bean look-alike, and his boss's wife, Nina Ferrer (Maryanne Renzetti), a socialite, engaged in a conversation as they wait for the opera to begin. We learn from the conversation that Nina’s husband, a prestigious New York publisher, sent him to ensure Nina gets home safely. However, she insists on him staying because she doesn't like Wagner and decides to leave on her own during the first intermission.

Evelyn Strange (Shauna Johannesen) appears and we find out that she is only there because she found tickets to the show in the trench coat she is wearing. She has amnesia and doesn't remember how the tickets got there. Evelyn finds she is alone with Perry who is attracted to Evelyn, and takes her under his care. For the next two hours we're curious who Evelyn is.

Enter Lewis Hake ( Adam Bergquist), another look-alike, this time of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. As the play unravels, we eventually find out as Evelyn's memory comes back who she really is. There is a happy ending to the story.

I enjoyed the play. The actors were fast-talking. I wondered at first whether they talked that way because that's how New Yorkers talk, unlike here in the West, we tend to be slow talkers. Or perhaps because it was a matinee performance and the actors just wanted to go home as soon as possible. I also noticed that they seemed to have good rapport among themselves, which is a good thing. You've got to like and enjoy doing a show and that way, you do a good show.

I look forward to seeing more shows from this new-born Vancouver company. A lot of companies have been born out of the Fringe, and as the saying goes, the more the merrier. That way Vancouverf gets to eventually be another mecca for theatre just like New York.

© 2011 Ed Farolan