This is not a happy play

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By Tobi Cohen

What do Vizzini from The Princess Bride, Mr. Hall from Clueless and Rex the dinosaur from Toy Story all have in common?

The answer is Wallace Shawn, the mediocre actor who has played all those supporting roles. Shawn is also a playwright and his latest play, The Designated Mourner, is now playing at the Tarragon Theatre.

The play focuses on Jack (played by Eric Peterson), the lone survivor of an intellectual community under authoritarian rule. Through a series of intertwining monologues, Jack-with the help of his estranged wife Judy(played by Clare Coulter), and his ex-father-in-law, Howard(played by Paul Bettis)-reveal their observations conclusions about the breakdown of morality and culture which they witnessed.

With a highly complex plot and minimal action-the set consists of a row of three chairs from which the characters sit and speak to their audience-it is at times difficult for the audience’s attention to remain focused.

Precisely timed musical interludes and very delicate, alluring lighting manages to regain the audience’s attention in a very powerful manner.

The one thing that will keep the audience from daydreaming is the tremendous quality of acting. Eric Peterson captivated the audience with his subtle arrogance and bold charm.

An intellectually dense play, The Designated Mourner might not appeal to the average person.

If you are among the five per cent of the population who ideal form of entertainment is an abstract, distorted look into humanity, this play is just what you’re looking for. Otherwise, keep watching Friends.

The Designated Mourner made its Canadian debut at the Tarragon Theatre Sept.23 and runs to Oct. 23.


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