The quest for the inner goddess: Guys in Disguise’s Crack in the Mirror, a Fringe review

Trevor Schmidt, Jake Tkaczyk, Jason Hardwick in Crack in the Mirror, Guys in Disguise. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

Crack in the Mirror (Stage 11, Varscona Theatre)

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

In honour of their 35th year at the Fringe, Guys in Disguise, who cast their sharp-eyed long-lashed gaze on women’s roles, make a return to suburbia, the traditional home turf of the married, for the third of their Orchard Crescent trilogy. Crack in the Mirror, by the Guys in Disguise team of Darrin Hagen and Trevor Schmidt, is the funniest (and most insightful) of them all.

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The trilogy began in the ‘50s with a prickly comedy of nuclear paranoia Prepare For The Worst. The formidable ‘60s wedding planner mother in Don’t Frown At The Gown undertook to dispense lessons in the social proprieties of that decade. It ended with a mysteriously unapologetic single bridal shop owner saying “There’s a new kind of modern woman coming.”  

And now it’s 1977 and that new modern woman is struggling to emerge from the suburban girdle, so to speak. That’s what ladies support groups are for. And at the meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary of Orchard Crescent the apprehensive participants are about to undertake an early feminist ritual. “Mirror mirror on the floor,” reclaim your inner goddess, says the feminist manual. And objects in the mirror, as a character will later observe, are closer than they appear. 

Feminism approaches, but the suburban battlements are well-fortified. Melanie (Schmidt), the beleaguered mother of five teenage boys (she answers the phone “lady of the house”), is the big-haired pill-popper hostess who knows exactly what to do with Pillsbury crescent rolls. “Everyone loves it when I’m in charge of snacks.”

Ruth (Jason Hardwick), a divorcée, arrives shorn at both ends just to spite “that bastard Larry.” She is woman, hear her roar. Ginger (Jake Tkaczyk) is a widow (the respectable way to be single), back from the Betty Ford, and strictly old school. “You’re so pretty you don’t need to be a lesbian,” she tells Ruth, who’s reported an abortive date with one Ray who turned out, alas, to be Rae, and A Girl. Mrs. Bradley hasn’t heard of Gloria Steinem, but wonders if she lives on the cul-de-sac.  

Guys in Disguise has never met an entendre they could resist doubling, and the script has its own giddy sense of humour. There’s a  scene built entirely on extreme pronoun entanglement, a la ‘who’s on first?’. You’ll laugh, I know it.   

The performances in Trevor Schmidt’s production will crack you up. Schmidt is the perpetually dazed Melanie, with her whispery little girl voice and instinct for conciliation. Her double-takes and pauses for reassessment are amusing in themselves. Hardwick’s Ruth talks loud, trying to be all brave and modern and brash because she craves validation for splitting with “that bastard Larry.” 

And, in a performance of inspired deadpan, statuesque Tkaczyk is Ginger, trotting with a forward lean on her high heels, genuinely perplexed by modern developments in thinking. And also modern developments in sitting: watching Ginger try to figure out how to sit on throw cushions is a little gem of physical comedy. 

Crack in the Mirror treats her affectionately though. The men of Orchard Crescent, wherever they are, should be very nervous.   

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