Felix Culpa
Donald and Lenore by Tom Cone

Dates and Venue 6-20 March @ 8pm, Mat 14 March @ 4 pm | Wosk Tahiti Lounge Cabaret at the JCCGV Vancouver

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Once there was Anthony and Cleopatra; once there was Man and Superman; now we have Donald and Lenore. While Tom Cone is no Shakespeare or Shaw, his latest play dabbles as delightfully with the dynamism of yoked tension as each of these literary giants did with issues of conquest or socialism, respectively. Donald and Lenore explores the push-pull forces of bondage and freedom within the context of a an unusual mixed gender, employer-employee relationship. Donald, a parolee, works for Lenore as the keyboard accompanist to her nightclub act in the underground bomb shelter of an airport.

Set Designer John Webber transformed the Wosk Auditorium into a Tahitian-style lounge which comfortably seats the audience in clusters around lounge tables, while actors Linda Quibell as Lenore and Billy Marchenski as Donald professionally and energetically perform their act, and enact the drama that unfolds.

As the play proceeds, Lenore's own neuroses regarding security, trust, love and morality rise to the surface. Meanwhile Donald--who is actually the seventh Donald in a series of parolees Lenore has employed in her act--decides to try out his own material and engages in some frank, candid, psychologically-revealing confessionals concerning his prison experiences. By this time the audience has left the building and the planes are being re-routed from the terminal.

An ominous pall hangs over the nightclub. This scenario allows Cone to alienate his live audience through several throw-away lines pitched at Lenore's imaginary non-existent audience, but there is just as real a chance that a good many members of the actual audience may be shocked and appalled at the crassness of Donald's revelations and even more chagrined by the vulgarity of Lenore's subsequent mercenary reactions to him.

Donald and Lenore does get you where you live, if where you live is in a state of repressed anxiety, and then it trashes your house with vulgar panache and sultry sensuality. The uneven edges of the play probe with occasionally trenchant wit and flashes of caustic humour into the shallow end of the murky pool of insecurity: how does one survive the prisons of the mind overwhelmed by a world rife with death and destruction?

Lenore can only see shadows of the natural world through the jaded eyes of her Donald, and settles for an 'inside' world of artifice, illusion, and entrapment. She masks her anxiety over the distasteful state of the world by escaping into her nightclub act, her retrogressive relationships with a series of 'Donald' figures--none of whom bring about anything more than the dawn of dim sensual surmise--and ultimately she steadies herself with an impulsive quest to gratify her sensual urges by enslaving her surrogate lover.

This play offers the pit of gritty realism wrapped in the rind of raw isolationism, even as it blithely discards the fruit of sentiment, disdaining all of its hopeful juice. Fittingly, there is a carousel--that Joni Mitchell emblem of captivity in time. Ironically, it is not the horse and carriage carousel Joni sang about, but rather a slide carousel, containing a series of sunsets from exotic locations around the world; a carousel that projects an image onto a hanging overhead screen behind Lenore's congas. As Lenore stands in front of the projector her shadow rises on the screen above her. A thought-provoking sight.

Donald and Lenore projects an image of a far different kind of sunset; it is echoed in one of the play's more memorable lines: "Music has no morality." Like all generalizations, this one skirts more than the truth as it accentuates the true identity of the play's protagonists with the still, sad music of a humanity that must retreat deceptively into itself rather than face the challenges of an increasingly hostile world.

© 2010 Roger Wayne Eberle