By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
A Momentary Lapse (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)
Enter, shackled together.
In one way A Momentary Lapse is part of the canon of plays that trap deliberately mismatched characters together to see what rapprochement is possible (nun and hooker, serial killer and musical comedy star, etc. etc.).
In the normal course of events, when would Louise Trent (Jocelyn Ahlf), an earnest but over-extended 35-year-old self-improver (homemaker, Hansard typist, flautist, Lancôme salesperson at the Bay, novice Amnesty International activist …) intersect with Arthur Pomeroy (Luc Tellier)? He’s a jaded, perpetually exasperated high school senior who has withering views on everything, including Hamlet (he has “the most embarrassing mother”).
But A Momentary Lapse isn’t the normal course of events. Not by a long shot. In this madcap, blithely wayward 2005 Teatro La Quindicina comedy co-authored by Stewart Lemoine and frequent Teatro leading lady Ahlf, the characters are linked by the Criminal Code — and their intertwined breaches thereof.
The Law (Mathew Hulshof), in one of its (sorry, his) many manifestations, has nailed them. They’re “miscreants” together, doing Community Service in joint atonement: cautionary public confession for the good of society. The play is their presentational re-enactment of their respective misdemeanours, lead-up and consequences.
Their official duties include acting the bit players in each other’s lives.You’ll see Ahlf’s Louise as the school guidance councillor, for example, and as Arthur’s best friend Cody, an outsized lunk-head ( as Arthur notes en passant, “6’5” is pretty uncalled for in high school”).
How a school trip to Denmark (Hamlet’s stomping ground, right?) intersects with book-burning, the latest of Louise’s projects on an overseas flight and the lyrics of MacArthur Park … is the plot. One thing doesn’t so much lead to another, as leap to another. The fabric of the comedy is the weave of the characters. These include The Law, amusingly played by Hulshof, the authority figure who shows up in every situation, morphing from traffic cop to assistant principal to sheriff to flight attendant — a bylaw on legs.
As played by Ahlf, Louise has a very funny desperate addled sincerity to her, as she vaults breathlessly between projects that she never quite grasps. And Tellier is out-and-out riotous as Arthur, who has elevated the eye-roll to a fine art. He combines sullen and intense, which sounds impossible on paper but exists in real-life everywhere.
Light, light-hearted, and salutary.