Playhouse Theatre Company

The Blonde, The Brunette, and The Vengeful Redhead by Robert Hewett

Dates and Venue 12 January – 2 February 2008 @ 8pm | The Vancouver Playhouse

Director Geordie Johnson Set, Props, Costumes Michael Gianfrancesco Lighting Kimberly Purtell Sound John Lott Stage Manager Nora Polley

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Lucy Peacock is the sole performer in this two hours of the complicated story of a woman’s life. In this short time she presents six different characters and their part in her arrival at her last and seventh scene. Not only does the actress change her clothes and wig on stage, for each person, she also changes her persona -- appearance, movement, body language, and voice -- so completely, that she appears a different being.

From Rhonda, a bewildered housewife whose husband has just announced that he is moving out after seventeen years of marriage, she transforms into her friend Lynette who tells Rhonda what she thinks all the neighbours know, that Rhonda’s husband, Graham is having an affair with a blonde in a jewellery store in the local shopping mall. It is there that the drama begins, at the drop of an ice-cream cone!

We also meet Alex, a doctor. We learn about her partner Chrissie, her estranged husband Sam and two children, Ellen and Matthew. This is not a large neighbourhood and has grown from being a small intimate community with small shops and businesses to an urban area with its mall of assorted stores and inevitable chain coffee shops. One of Rhonda’s neighbours, Mrs Carlisle, an elderly widow, recounts some of the changes in the environment and the neighbours, as she has seen them over the years.

Two of the most unusual and incredibly believable personifications presented are those of Chrissie’s four year old son, and the self-pitying, drug reliant and inebriated Graham. Adults playing children, especially young children are not often well realized, but here Matthew is a child, not understanding what the adults are doing and wanting his mother.

No one has told him that she is dead, nor does he understand why Alex is in his mother’s bed. Still obliviously childlike he is comforted with the sausage rolls being prepared by Mrs Carlisle for his mother’s funeral tea. This was a heartbreaking performance credibly and unsentimentally performed.

As the alcoholic Graham, Peacock looks and moves as a dissolute, disillusioned, hopeless man. His self-justification for his state, his movements and his tone of voice has all the audible whining yet defensive bravado of the chronic alcoholic.

The stance, uncertain walk and bravado are impeccably managed and never overplayed. Finally, the blonde who so entranced Graham, who is indifferent to his advances, though stringing him along for a short time, is a brassy business woman.

She discovers that Rhonda is convicted of killing another woman, and just thinks she has had a lucky escape. So many lives are affected by Rhonda’s outraged confrontation with the wrong blonde. Families and relationships are broken and reconnected. Some survive, some go under. Rhonda in her prison cell learns the essential humanity and forgiveness and the fact that life goes on, from Ellen, the blind daughter of Alex and Sam.

As the lights dim there is breathless silence before a tremendous outburst of appreciation for this stunning performance. This is by far and away the best one-person show I have ever seen in decades of theatre-going.

© 2008 Jane Penistan