By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Sirens (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)
It is understandable if the prospect of a comedy about a middle-aged couple off on an anniversary cruise to revive their stale marriage fills you with a certain dread. Even if it’s a cruise to the Greek Isles, which of course enhances the lighting.
It’s not as if the theatre repertoire is starved for light-hearted predictable comedies about middle-aged couples reviving stale marriages — by camping (tragic, really), by purchasing vacation homes in the outback, by purchasing how-to-revive sex manuals, by bonding with other livelier couples, by play-acting as versions of their younger selves, by dancing to ABBA, etc. It is a baleful list.
Sirens, though, by the American playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer, sets itself apart in a number of heartening ways. And so does Kate Ryan’s well-acted Atlas Theatre production. For one thing, Greek mythology is involved. You may not have seen that coming from the title (c’mon, it could have signalled a comedy about table-dancers or the impending apocalypse). Anyhow, the Sirens, you may recall, are the brigade of Mediterranean temptresses whose job (as detailed in Homer’s Odyssey) is to sing so irresistibly that sailors are lured to their watery deaths just hearing it.
There is one of those mysteriously lethal songstresses in Sirens. And she’s pretty funny, especially since Louise Lambert is playing her and she has a smart phone from the gods. In addition to her shift work luring men to their deaths, the Siren spends her time playing Solitaire (her stats are very high) on her “little magic box” from the gods. Death? Whatever, and your problem is…? Batteries are the problem.
Back to the couple. Simon (Julien Arnold) is a song-writer who hasn’t had a hit after his first, 25 years ago, inspired by mad pash for Rose. He’s looking for inspiration from Facebook friends, who tend to be young and female. The tart-tongued Rose (Stephanie Wolfe) is having trouble getting his full attention. Are their “thrilling” days over?
Hence the cruise (and the pert ministrations of a travel agent, also played by Lambert). And it has to be special “I did not put up with you for 25 years to go to the Jersey Shore,” says Rose. Anyhow Arnold and Wolfe have an easy, convincing rapport, and, as possessors of first-rate comic timing, a convincing rapport as well with the lines. They’re real pros, and it’s fun to see their dexterity in Ryan’s production.
There are playful sitcom developments — let’s not call them obstacles because that would imply surprise — both in Greece and back in New York. And Mat Busby has a very funny cameo as a guy from high school Rose contacts back home. He gets mixed signals; the way he says” “ Long Island” is a corker, and should be X-rated.