The Arts Club Theatre Company
Zadie's Shoes

Venue: Granville Island Stage Dates: 3 April - 3 May 2003
Director: John Cooper

Reviewer: Erin JaneZadie's logo

Zadie’s Shoes is a well-articulated play about cancer, gambling and family, and somehow playwright Adam Pettle infuses all this with humour (yes, including one or two passable cancer jokes). Of course, Pettle’s history with cancer – as outlined in the program – clearly makes it all very acceptable. Also, interestingly enough, the play started as a writing exercise in one of Pettle’s classes in 1997, and was then expanded and developed into what I saw performed at the Granville Island Stage this last Wednesday.

While I found Zadie’s Shoes to be an altogether amusing play, what impressed me the most was the set design, the scene changes and the acting talent. As I took my seat, I took note of the set: bleachers at a horse race. Quite large, immovable, and somewhat confusing, since I found myself wondering how an entire play could be performed around such a conspicuous set. Yet I was pleasantly surprised as the first scene started, and it was a bedroom scene; only a very small part of the play actually takes place at a horse race, but the bleachers lingering in the background reinforces the pressure one feels in sympathy for the man trying to win back a substantial amount of money for his wife’s therapeutic trip to Mexico.

Unfortunately, while Camyar Chai (playing gambler Benjamin) plays a convincingly desperate character throughout, and was perhaps the only one I felt genuine concern for, there was very little development with the other characters. The “three sisters” motif is used here seemingly superfluously since, other than Ruth (Benjamin’s sick wife), the other two sisters do not really have much to offer the central focus which seems to be one man’s struggle with a gambling problem and the Jewish faith. Also, a sub-plot of a curling competition comes as very under-developed, and is distracting at best.

However, regardless of Zadie’s few shortcomings in terms of plot, the overall performance was well done. Scene changes were particularly delightful; walls glided onto the stage soundlessly and lights dimmed to orange behind windows with Venetian blinds. Go see Zadie’s Shoes until May 3, it is rather quirky and very well performed.

© 2003, Erin L. Jane