At 211 East Georgia Street (at Main) until November 29, 2015
theatrewire.com (Two-for-One, November 24)
Posted November 22, 2015
I can’t remember laughing so hard and being so unsettled at the same time – in equal measure. In writing The North Plan, American actor/playwright Jason Wells was responding to his discovery of the Main Core, described in his words as, “a database system containing information on millions of American citizens marked for surveillance or detention. Evidence suggests that Main Core has been used often for unwarranted surveillance in the last decade or longer, suggesting that a “national emergency” is even more nebulous than most of us would have supposed.” Bill C51, anyone?
In the North Plan, enemies of the state – indistinguishable from the politicians and bureaucrats they’re ousting – are simply taking over. There are no masks, no camouflage; they’re dressed in suits and ties and they speak as if they have authority. Also, they carry guns. Confusion reigns. Nobody knows who’s in charge.
Anticipating the coup, Carlton Berg (Daniel Martin), a self-described “mid-level member of the State Department” has put the Main Core on a zip drive and has a reliable journalist friend in Houston who could blow the whistle on the whole takeover. Carlton, however, has already been locked up and is about to be ‘disappeared’. How is he going to deliver the zip drive?
In the adjoining cell is Tanya Shepke (Genevieve Fleming) who has turned herself in to the local lockup for drunk driving. She’s a foul-mouthed, motor-mouth gal who thinks by turning herself in, she deserves a reward for taking a drunk (herself) off the road.
Chelsea Haberlin (who also directed the award-winning Killer Joe a few years ago) deftly directs for Upintheair Theatre in the basement of a newly renovated building in Chinatown. With clean concrete walls and floors and bright, bright lights, it feels like an interrogation room which, in the play, it becomes. Haberlin is definitely an up-and-comer on the directorial scene.
These are terrific, energetic, fully committed performances: Allen Morrison (as Dale Pittman) and David Mott (Bob Lee) are a couple of ‘Two Stooges’ types who phone someone higher up to ask, “Are we killing people now?” In other words, is it okay to shoot Carlton? They’re so stupid, they’re dangerous.
Paul Herbert is steady, solid Sheriff Swenson – so real you think he or his clone may have caught you speeding on Interstate 5. Daniel Martin plays Carlton who just wants that zip drive to get into the right hands before millions of “artists, lawyers, gun owners” are rounded up and killed.
Catherine Lough Haggquist is Shonda, the long-suffering cop whose job it is to watch prisoners Carlton and Tanya. And it isn’t easy because Tanya never shuts up. If there’s a limited arsenal of f-bombs on the planet, Tanya uses them all up in the space of a couple of hours. Beautiful Genevieve Fleming is Tanya in tight jeans and red boots. At the end of the play, Fleming/Tanya has everyone cheering and laughing and woo-hooing. (Don’t tell Fleming what everyone knows: she’s too good for this town.)
Act 1 sets it all up. The audience moves to another room for Act 2; the pace, already brisk, cranks up and the play turns into a farce: Tanya evading Pittman while he’s on the phone; Shonda racing back and forth to the ladies room. All this while Carlton is being tortured although smart-as-a-bag-of-nails Pittman explains he’s not torturing Carlton, he’s just “getting information”.
Words of warning: obscene language and lots of it; violence and gunshots. And don’t park in the adjoining parkade; it closes at 10PM and costs forty bucks to get a very nice man to open the gate.
The North Plan is smart, hilarious and disturbing. Mostly hilarious. Until you think about it.