By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
“Hold on just a moment there…” says one Irish home-care worker to another near the start of Fly Me To The Moon, by the Belfast playwright Marie Jones (Stones In His Pockets), the loopy little comedy that closes the Shadow Theatre season.
That, my friends, is the sound of a brainwave: Frances (Elinor Holt) is having one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” inspirations that will spin frantically out of control. She and Loretta (Annette Loiselle), her less assertive co-workie, are chatting amiably away — about their kids, school trips Loretta can’t afford, the loss of her husband’s bricklayer’s job, Frances’s bad back, her no-goodnik boyfriend, her son’s glorious new business venture flogging illegal DVDs for a fiver.….
They finally get around to wondering why Davey, their 84-year-old client, has failed to return from the bathroom. There’s a reason: the old codger is dead. So, where’s the harm in a short delay reporting this sad event, enough time to cash his pension cheque, and pocket the 120 quid? What could go wrong?
The devil’s in the details, as every farceur knows. Every step after that ups the ante on a minor (and, hey, victim-less) crime — crime? no, wait, income adjustment venture. Every initiative in damage control requires damage control. Opportunity and predicament are cousins once removed.
In John Hudson’s production Holt and Loiselle create an amusing team dynamic from the start, plausibility with an Irish cadence. Loiselle’s breathless, naturally submissive Loretta, the beleaguered family go-fer, is the one who does all the work. Holt’s harder-edged Frances, who has one of those whisky voices and a laugh that could exfoliate your legs, is the one who sits around, chewing gum like she’s flogging it into submission and airing her grievances about the state of the world.
Frances is outraged that her son got into trouble at school, at age 11, for his illegal booze and cig distribution empire instead of being praised for his entrepreneurial chutzpah. “They drove him into the underworld,” she says. “He coulda bin a banker and done it legit….”
There’s a certain poignance about it, too. At 6 quid an hour, Frances and Loretta are paid-up members of the working poor; they not only can’t get ahead but can’t even break even. School field trips much less a girls’ getaway weekend in Barcelona? Pretty much out of the question, now and forever. “I dream about money, Frances, do you?” says Loretta wistfully.
There’s the temptation on offer by the pension cheque of the late Davey McGee, whose only known pleasures were Frank Sinatra (hence the play’s title), the Daily Mirror, and small bets on the horses. In truth, his bedroom (designer Chantel Fortin), which occupies the entire Varscona stage, seems a little grand in scale for such a guy.
“You work hard, life is short”: that’s one justification. “It’s what Davey would have wanted”: there’s another. There are many more.
Escalating panic is the fabric of Fly Me To The Moon: the scramble of two brainstorming home-care workers to cover up every bad decision by launching an even crazier one escalates to a truly mad apotheosis of logic that leaves plausibility behind. Way behind, on the moon launchpad.
The premise is inspired, but not quite sustainable for two acts (with intermission) — partly because of this length, and partly because, after the first apparently harmless step, the production, following the contours of the play, is pitched a little high a little soon. But the performances are fun, and the continuing analysis of how to “act normal” is a hoot: comic desperation with a conscience.
Fly Me To The Moon
Written by: Marie Jones
Directed by: John Hudson
Starring: Elinor Holt, Annette Loiselle
Where: Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave.
Running: through May 13
Tickets: 780-434-5564, shadowtheatre.org