Thursday, April 14, 2016

REVIEW: CAUGHT at Theatre Passe Muraille

Last weekend, I saw Jordi Mand's latest play, CAUGHT, in the intimate Passe Muraille Backspace. The Backspace is one of my favourite theatres in the city, not for comfort or beauty, but for the intimacy of the playing space, and the way the small room intensifies the experience of being in a theatre.

It was a perfect choice of venue for CAUGHT, which is set  in a tiny, soulless, concrete security room in a mall somewhere in Toronto.

A 30-something female security guard (Sabryn Rock) has apprehended a young male suspect (Jakob Ehman channelling his inner weasel) with a backpack full of stuff  he's shoplifted.  It's an amount of merchandise valued at over $2000, so the police are called. The young man is remarkably inventive and incredibly slimy in his myriad attempts to extricate himself from a situation he's created. The verbal sparring match between the guard and the kid alternates between fraught and frisky.

Then the police officer arrives ( a note perfect Meewun Fairbrother). Turns out he and the security guard know each other, and not just from the mall. Then, the cat and mouse games get really interesting.

Sarah Garton Stanley balances tension and humour in the production to good effect. There's great chemistry between the actors and the performances are all good.  Rock is particularly impressive, showing us the anger and bitterness in a woman who works in justice, but  receives almost none in her own life.

Mand is a very smart writer. As she did in BETWEEN THE SHEETS  she uses a highly charged situation to explore issues of status and power: who has it, who wants it, and what people will do to turn a situation to their advantage and make a power grab.

In CAUGHT, she examines what it really means to be trapped in a range of contexts: in an illegal act, in a dead-end job, on a rung of the professional ladder, in a bad relationship.  Who escapes, how, and why are all touched on, although some  of the issues she raises feel like they get short shrift.

The program says the play runs 75 minutes but I think it was closer to an hour, not really enough time to fully delve into the rich subject matter.  I really enjoyed most of CAUGHT.  The ending, alas, while blackly droll, feels rushed, and not as evolved as the rest of the play.  I think there's more to this story, and that perhaps Mand hasn't quite finished writing the play yet.

What's here is taut , provocative and very engaging, with a lot of food for thought about who gets off the hook, and why.

CAUGHT continues at THEATRE PASSE MURAILLE's Backspace until April 24.  or call:  416 504 7529

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