Arts Club Theatre

The Poster Boys by Michele Riml

Dates and Venue 27 March – 26 April 2008 | Granville Island Stage

Director Andrew McIlroy Sets Ted Roberts Lighting Marsha Sibthorpe Costumes Darryl Milot Sound Andrew Tugwell Projections Jamie Nesbitt Stage Managers Marion Anderson and Pamela Jakobs

Reviewer John Jane

Inspired by the brouhaha created over the controversial advertising campaign for the Vancity credit union a few years ago that courted business from the gay and lesbian community and was predictably denounced by the Roman Catholic Church’s Vancouver archdiocese, North Shore playwright, Michele Riml has developed an absorbing and thought-proving premise with her new play, Poster Boys.

Theatre-goers who were fortunate to see Riml’s previous work, Sexy Laundry, will see obvious similarities with Poster Boys in as much that it blends a sexual theme with the corporate world, pointing a moral compass towards the rejection of superficiality.

This time she explores homosexuality or more accurately how it is exploited in guerilla marketing, an industry of which the author has some first-hand knowledge. To her credit, Riml doesn’t set out to condemn the Catholic Church for its action, or even admonish the advertisers for any lack of scruples but instead creates a more personal story that centres around an advertising executive that appears to be riding the crest of a wave and doesn’t plan to get off any time soon.

The play opens with an attractive, slender woman wearing a white bathrobe being pampered by three male attendants in an upscale beauty salon; the bathrobe is suddenly removed to reveal the woman’s designer underwear. Caroline, the owner of the underwear seems to have it all going her way, but as the play moves from comic to slightly more serious, we discover that she is a creative director with creative block. She fears that if she is unable to manage successfully her professional life, all other aspects of her will life will break down.

Adding to her predicament, Caroline is carrying on a dalliance with a young subordinate whose participation on the current campaign is accepted only to the extent that it doesn’t jeopardise her ego. She is frequently visited her own psyche visually represented by ‘The Woman’ who loquaciously dismisses her self-doubt. The inspired casting of a man (Daniel Arnold) in this role makes her presence more surreal.

The eponymous “poster boys” here are Jack and Carson whose gay relationship is really a subplot. Jack is older and coincidentally Caroline’s ex-fiancé who virtually left her standing at the altar thirteen years earlier. He is an eager confrere willing to expose his lifestyle for “the cause.”

Carson, who comes from a conventional Catholic background is initially reluctant to flaunt his gay lifestyle for commercial use and much to his partner’s frustration, he is forced to manage the clear conflict between his faith and sexual identity. Carson’s confusion gives rise to some poignant domestic comedy that is made to work well by some earnest acting by Daniel Arnold and Scott Bellis.

Lois Anderson gives a sexy, nuanced performance as the slightly neurotic Caroline – her’s is the only character that is fully developed. Luke Camilleri has little to do as Caroline’s co-worker, Brad except looking pretty; but at least he does that well enough.

Andrew McIlroy provides non-intrusive direction; though, some scenes could have been less laboured. Andrew Tugwell’s sound design is a little obtuse given the opportunity for real creativity. Although, I did enjoy Caroline and Jack’s deliberately discordant karaoke rendition of “I got you Babe.” Ted Robert’s versatile props are seamlessly adapted to Jack and Carson’s condo, a trendy ad agency and a karaoke bar.

Like the characters in the play, Poster Boys is not flawless, but the Arts Club Theatre should be applauded for taking a few risks and giving audiences something to ponder after they have left the theatre.

© 2008 John Jane