Persephone Theatre’s holiday comedy is a frivolous, fun, and quite cute diversion for all ages — even if it doesn’t hit all the marks of an exceptional farce.
The performance of The Fiancée on Sunday night brought the laughs, but missed the snappy timing that would have elevated the show from good to spectacular.
The Fiancée follows Lucy (Ali Watson) and her sister Rose (Jameela McNeil) as they deal with multiple conundrums: their new landlady demanding rent on the same day Rose loses her job, that same landlady threatening eviction since the building only rents to married couples, and Lucy’s three fiancées all returning from the war. Lucy’s inability to say no to anyone or anything lands her and her sister in a furious attempt to keep their apartment — and keep Lucy’s fiancées from crossing paths.
The best farces need physicality, clever jokes, and impeccable timing. While The Fiancée had the first two down pat, it was imperfect timing that slowed the show.
Whether it was small moments between actors or long setups between jokes, the rapid-fire pace of a great farce never materialized.
If you can get past the awkward pacing, the show brings plenty of comedy. But the moments when everything clicked came in pieces broken up by transitions that seemed to linger past their welcome. It felt like the production was hoping the audience would provide a sitcom-esque laugh track to fill the spaces with no jokes or dialogue.
During those pieces where everything came together, however, the actors shone brilliantly. Each performer in the ensemble was given their moment to be the centre of attention, and they all committed with everything they had. Special kudos to Mackenzie Dawson as Lucy’s fiancée Manny, who was equal parts joyously awkward and adorable — especially during the scene when he takes some bad news, well, quite hilariously badly.
The sisterly dynamic between Watson and McNeil as Lucy and Rose respectively was a fantastic holiday treat that did much to elevate the production. The pair shines whether they’re sniping at each other over Lucy’s mistakes, or when they’re tag-teaming the task of hiding an unconscious body in the coat closet.
On that note: what a set. A brilliantly-designed, pastel-palette 1940s apartment helped drop the audience right into the chaos. There was plenty of space to move through and levels to take advantage of (though the back of the stage could have been a foot or so higher to see some action over the couch), and the audience caught on fairly quickly where the doors to the bedroom, bathroom, and pantry were as the action flowed around the kitchen and living room.
The first and second acts were dramatically different experiences. If the first act was all slow setup, then the second came out firing with punchline after punchline that had the Sunday night audience laughing and energized.
And while the number of jokes ramped up as the situation became more and more ridiculous, the actors did their best to keep the energy high for the audience. Particular credit goes to McNeil, who expertly evolves Rose from the straight man to all of Lucy’s antics to someone completely in over her head, and Kenn McLeod pulling double-duty as both fiancée number three Clark and the hapless vacuum salesman Chester.
McLeod uses his physicality and expressions to add another layer of humour to the production — and the amount of costume and entrances changes he went through as he switched from character to character was nothing short of spectacular.
The Fiancée is a perfect popcorn show. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s most definitely enjoyable. But there’s not much to it — and by the time you’re done, you can’t help but wish there was a little more there.
The show is worth seeing — who doesn’t need a laugh during the holiday season? — and despite it’s flaws, you’ll certainly walk out smiling.
The Fiancée runs until Dec. 18th at Persephone Theatre. Tickets can be found online at persephonetheatre.org.