By Kelvin Chan
Even with the incest, simulated oral sex (at least that’s what I think it was), uncoordinated stip-club dancing, phony fight scenes, lounge singing and the rambling monologues, Sled is still a pretty horrible play.
Sled is Judith Thompson’s latest play, her first full-length effort in seven years. It’s being billed as “epic in scope,” but seems too ambitious for its own good.
Set in both Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and a wilderness lodge in Northern Ontario, Sled is a series of disconnected scenes in the lives of a handful of people who live on the same street.
Jack (Ron White) is a tough cop, and his wife Annie (Nancy Palk), a lounge singer, are on vacation at the lodge. Also there are Kevin (Michael Mahonen), a Kato Kaelin lookalike, and his buddy Mike (Derwin Jordan), on a hunting trip. After fighting with Jack in the lodge’s dining room, Kevin shoots both Annie, who is out for a walk in the woods, and Mike, who threatens to tell the cops.
After the murders, Kevin searches for the childhood home from which he was abducted from when he was four years old. He finds his half-sister Evangeline (Pamela Matthews), who just so happens to live two doors down from Jack. Soon after Kevin arrives in Evangeline’s life, he molests her and forces her to get a job as a stripper, where she runs into Jack.
Living in between them and tying everything together is Joe, and old man who spends his days on his front porch rocking chair.
Sled is not so much about these events as it is an excuse for the characters to regress to their childhood and rediscover their cultural background.
Kevin, while searching for his real family, has a freudian flashback about his mother.
Joe starts speaking his native Italian and also has flashbacks about his mother, who beats him with a broomstick.
Annie, or her ghost, reminisces about hiding beneath her grandmother’s skirt, dreams of going to her ancestral Ireland and occasionally sings in Gaelic.
Jack, unlike his wife, tries to forget his French-Canadian identity and tells his wife about how he turned bad at the age of nine.
And this is where Sled fails. It attempts to focus on too many backgrounds and identities and gets bogged down. Too often, characters break up the rhythm of the play by going off on tangents when they talk about their pasts. As a result, Sled is unfocused and sprawling, taking up a full three hours and two intermissions. I was so distraught I couldn’t bare waiting around for the opening night booze and schmooze.