Descent: The play that owes me an apology

Thank Gawd for the review in the Globe and Mail. For a second there I thought I was only one to be completely thrown off by the writing of "Descent" by Tom Walmsley( it's a shame the G&M link is a subscriber read). I would never claim myself to be a theatre maven by any stretch of the word, but last week I wasn't expecting what was "thrown up" at me.

Playing at The Passe Muraille Theatre, Descent really wasn't worth the 25 dollars I paid to sit in the small, fairly empty theatre. I had high hopes for the play, and finding out that it was about sex, booze and infidelity I was totally digging the idea of a good night of laughs. Pssshhhhh...ummm, riiiight.

Susan (played by Deborah Hay) starts the show with a rather cheeky song about wanting to get married and have the stereotypical Leave it to Beaver squeaky clean family but as we soon find out, her upcoming life is anything but. Having the scene start with a song would lead you to believe that this was going to be a musical of sorts. But guess what folks? Nada. Not one more song. Not a bar, nor a beat, not even a stanza.

Regardless of this, the play carries on...and on...and on...and on. The storyline involves Susan, who is on the prowl just before her wedding night where she meets up with two lowlifes named Randy. One Randy, a struggling poet, the other Randy, well, I'm not quite sure what his deal was--not that it really mattered. The first 40 minutes the actors played their parts in drunken stupors which gave me a chuckle here and there but when the second act started and there was more wretching and stumbling about the stage, my attention faltered. Then there was something about a dead guy, or was he alive? No wait, he's dead again or wait, he's the devil! Or is he? And how exactly did the trio meet up again 8 years later? And why can they not afford a place to sleep, yet they can afford to get drunk on 26ers Goldschlager, Bombay Gin and Heineken? Did any of this paragraph make sense to you? It doesn't matter, it doesn't to me either and why should it? The play sure didn't make much sense and therefore I don't feel obliged to justify Descent much further.

After the fact I was told that Descent was originally a 3 part play but the middle part had been omitted. It's no wonder the 5 others that I attended the play with were completely confused. Why would you take a part out? Nothing linked, nothing meshed...it was just drunken nonsense that ended up making a two hour play feel like 4 hours of nausea--partly because of the incoherence and partly because of the constant offstage cookie tossing.

Another thing that threw me off was their playbill or lack thereof. Sure, it had a very pixilated photo of Deborah Hay on the front (see image above) but there wasn't a synopsis of the story to be found within. Isn't that somewhat standard? There was a ton of info on the actors, the building, etc. but nothing on the actual story. I guess they don't want you to know what you're in for.


Descent closes this Sunday and I am not going to apologize for the late notice. I think I'm essentially doing you a favour. A pre-warning of sorts. If you somehow manage to obtain those mystical 10 dollar tickets the website speaks of, then go ahead if you're into that whole self-destructive thing but seriously--avoid this one like the plague. The title has it right. Descent. Although, I'm not sure why it didn't go down sooner.

Closing Sunday Nov 19 2:30 pm (despite the fact various posters say that it is already closed)

Theatre Passe Muraille
16 Ryerson Ave
Toronto, ON M5T 2P3

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