Theatre Review: The Ventriloquist

"It's funny," muses Catherine Hernandez, Outreach and Community Development Coordinator at the Factory Theatre, "In every review I've read [of The Ventriloquist], I get the feeling that the critic doesn't quite know what to say. I feel like they're kind of just going 'Hmmmm'".

Not a bad assessment at all.

The Ventriloquist, running through May 21 at Factory, is one of those plays that takes a while to digest. As you chew, the taste isn't always pleasant. In fact, there are moments where it is decidedly off, but, to be fair, mankind's subconscious is not always palatable. The play, by plunging into the oft-disturbing depths of a writer's creative process, explores the notion of self as a construct of fabricated egos. Our inexplicable urges, our unfulfilled fantasies and our shameful wants all come out to play, and the tense flirtation between desire and reality produces twisted offspring that, too often, we pretend don't exist.

In the lead role, Meg Roe is a joy to watch. As Gaby, Roe achieves a perfect balance between childish impetuosity, artistic ingenuity and human vulnerability. Armed with a magical, gold-plated pen, the16-year-old sets out to write "the most beautiful love story in the world". Ironically, this seemingly innocent desire turns into journey that is anything but.

The real standout, however, is Montreal playwright Larry Tremblay's breathtaking script. It rouses and thrills and, ultimately, steals the show. Tremblay is a doting lover of language, and his exquisite arrangement of words is both inspired and inspiring, as he employs unlikely combinations to capture the flights and fancies of the human spirit. Translator and director Keith Turnbull also deserves immense credit for this staging.

The Ventriloquist takes a bold approach in probing the murky patches of the human psyche. Even after the curtains have fallen, its curious oddities and beautiful language continue to haunt.

What: The Ventriloquist
When: Tuesdays through Saturdays until May 21 at 8:00pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30pm
Where: Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street, at Adelaide)
Cost: $23 to 25, PWYC on Sundays, $5 student Hip Tix available
Psst: For the last two weeks, in association with Trinity Square Video and Cinefranco, Factory has been showcasing short films that explore similar themes as the play as part of its Puzzles and Puppets Festival. Each festival night (Thursdays) includes a short film screening, a performance of The Ventriloquist and a post-show talkback with the cast.
For more info, call 416-504-9971

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