Anyone who doesn’t find a thorough examination of the female species irrevocably fascinating either didn’t receive enough hugs as a child or simply doesn’t have a pulse. Playwright John Patrick Shanley wades into the subject matter with a dicey vista that’s every bit cerebrally magnetic as it is hilariously piquant.
It’s an unfair match for Noah Reid’s Rick who’s battling the estrogen wave from both directions in the play’s opening episode entitled French Waitress. His squeeze Pamela (Karen Knox) criticizes him for being an emotional separatist and the fiery femmes won’t accept any kind of conditional surrender. ‘When you wake from this dream, and this is a dream, return to your life,’ he reasons.
In Tennessee, a guitar playing romance seeker meets up with a hand-dancing psychic and the future remains uncertain for these two. Dewey (Katie Swift) can’t be sold while Mike (Jade Hassoune) just wants help reading the writing on the wall. ‘Knowing your future doesn’t change the future but it changes you,’ she warns before a psychological reckoning is somehow finally reached.
The real howler comes by way of Tiny Tragedy which feels equal parts Alexander Cox’s Straight To Hell and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Trent Pardy’s Hank seems to have designed the seduction blueprint with Molly Flood’s Sparkle inching ever so close to inescapable web of temptation. It’s bizarre, freaky funny and brims with sexual tension you couldn’t cut with a chain saw.
The games people play is vivid in Last Night In The Garden I Saw You where Anand Rajaram’s Arthur and Anna Hardwick’s Judy try one more time to make it work although hope is fading fast. “Is it because we don’t understand each other or are we at war?’ he asks.
Playgoers with a historical intolerance with ‘stupid pictures of happiness’ will feel right at home in Poland with Karen Knox’s Katia and Jonathan Higgins’ Dennis come to an agreement that women want to be understood even when packing an ‘off the chart sexual skillset.’
Banshee, the show closer, cuts across the narrative grain with a capricious reminder of the consequences of leaving a window open for three days. Tony Nappo’s Malcolm is content with a solitary existence until Martha Burns’ Genevieve, a fairy with active ovaries, pays a visit to find out what it feels like to join the human race. It’s passionately touching and mortally warm in reaching the anecdotal objective.
All of this felt with music man Matthew Barber’s fervent singing that seems to seal each scene with a kiss.
Blissfully captivating, A Woman Is A Secret demystifies the effeminate enigma for what it is. In doing so, it goes as far as suggesting that each entity possesses a wanton desire to be loved regardless of the bumpy path that leads them to the place to where it can be secured.
Don’t be afraid to spread the word.
Review by Steven Berketo
A WOMAN IS A SECRET by John Patrick Shanley March 9 – April 5, 2015 THE THEATRE CENTRE 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto TICKETS www.ripjawproductions.com 416-538-0988 CAST Matthew Barber, Noah Reid, Karen Knox, Anna Hardwick, Katie Swift, Jade Hassounne, Molly Flood, Trent Pardy, Anand Rajaram, Jonathan Higgins, Tony Nappo, Martha Burns DIRECTOR Andrew Shaver ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR Paul Flicker SET & COSTUME Hanna Puley LIGHTING Kimberly Purtell SOUND DESIGN Brian Kenny STAGE MANAGER Devon Potter