Lowest Common Denominator

Dallas Sauer and Shawn Macdonald in Lowest Common Denominator
Dallas Sauer and Shawn Macdonald in Lowest Common Denominator. Credit: Mark Halliday

At the Performing Arts Lodge Theatre until March 30

Posted March 20, 2014

Lowest Common Denominator reminded me that I’m an older, heterosexual female. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just that lust at first sight is hard to wrap my head around. The gentleman beside me in the theatre – an articulate widower with a degree in Philosophy and with whom I struck up a conversation – re-stated what we know to be the case: the male sex drive and the female sex drive are – or at least used to be – different. Biologically speaking, women are supposedly checking out the market for good fathers for the children they might have. Someone to pay off the mortgage, put food on the table and take out the garbage. Now that women might also be paying off a mortgage, putting food on the table and taking out the garbage, maybe the mating game has changed.

However, even with the amount of alcohol Peter (Shawn Macdonald) and Trevor (Dallas Sauer) have consumed, it’s simply beyond my ken that within minutes of meeting, Trevor has his tongue down Peter’s throat. Even more unbelievable are their declarations of love shortly thereafter.

Deborah Williams and Shawn Macdonald Credit: Mark Halliday
Deborah Williams and Shawn Macdonald
Credit: Mark Halliday

I suppose, not surprisingly, I relate more to Harmony (Deborah Williams), Trevor’s mother, who has been dumped by her “asshole” of a husband some time ago. After inviting her insurance agent Peter out on a date, he tells her he’s gay. She, apparently, has no gaydar. So they drink a lot more and he, surprisingly, goes back to her place; Harmony appears still to harbor hope that they’ll end up in the sack. This isn’t the part I relate to, btw.

What I do relate to is her animal fury when she catches her son Trevor and Peter lip-locked and groping each other. She leaps to the (wrong) conclusion that Peter initiated it and besides, he’s forty-seven and Trevor has just turned eighteen that very day.

Deborah Williams Credit: Mark Halliday
Deborah Williams
Credit: Mark Halliday

So what part of this do I get? I understand her need to protect Trevor against what she perceives as predatory Peter. And, wow, when Deb Williams gets into Mama Bear mood, look out. Harmony screams, she hollers, she threatens; she just about tears the roof off. And, of course, the guys do consequently end up in bed and in a relationship.

Written by Dave Deveau and directed by Cameron Mackenzie for Zee Zee Theatre, this is a world premiere following a workshop and public readings. There’s a lot of heart in both the script and in this production. Dallas Sauer is – what can I say? – adorable and his portrayal of Trevor is charming, cute and cuddly. Who wouldn’t fall for this kid? There doesn’t seem to be much chemistry, however, with Peter as played by Macdonald, partly because Peter has built such a protective shell around himself that we don’t get to know him until the end of the play at which point he shows amazing integrity.

What I really, really wanted to happen in this play – but this is another play, perhaps – is for Peter and Trevor to stand up to Harmony.

Dallas Sauer Credit: Mark Halliday
Dallas Sauer
Credit: Mark Halliday

At several crucial points, Deveau takes Lowest Common Denominator to a more theatrical place with the sunny fantasies in Harmony’s head: Costa Rica with Peter, straw hats, sharing drinks with tiny umbrellas in them, laughing together. These sequences interrupt the gritty realism of the play in a theatrically interesting way.

Ultimately, however, Harmony seems to love her son too much to do what she does. It’s downright evil.

We mothers stand by and watch our kids get their hearts broken; we try hard not to be the one that does the breaking. It seems – and this is due partly to those funny, sunny, fantasy scenes – that as well as being protective of Trevor, she’s jealous and continues, ridiculously, to have romantic feelings for Peter.

Older, heterosexual female and a mother, I just couldn’t buy into Harmony’s vicious reaction to what is clearly her son’s happiness. Maybe it’s because Williams is just one of the warmest, loving-est, proudest moms I know. And, at the beginning of Lowest Common Denominator, Harmony is, too.