Claptrap short on applause

By Amber Mything
Actors have often been described as being a breed apart. Well, as Tom Wood shows us in his play Claptrap, they also inhabit their own universe.

Set in the fictional town of Oslo, Ont., Claptrap takes a satirical look at a company of actors performing at a major summer theatre festival called the “Ibsen Festival,” named after Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Every imaginable stage stereotype is represented in the play: a tyrannical and effeminate director; a talented, yet out-of-work actress; a fame-hungry rich girl; and a neurotic festival veteran.

The play follows these people as they deal with a director from hell and the pressures of performing.
It attempts to provide a humorous and revealing glimpse of the “backstage” world, but it falls a little short.

For stage aficionados, the inside jokes and actorial mishaps would make sense. The rest of us though, were left to chuckle over the antics of Patsy the dwarf (Nicola Cavendish) and Simon, the hormone-driven and neurotic stage veteran (actor/playwright Tom Wood).

This isn’t to say the play wasn’t funny. It just left a non-theatre type like me with the feeling they weren’t getting the whole joke.

But even the theatre illiterate could appreciate the impressive set design.

In one scene, the main characters parade around singing — not very well, mind you — in their intricate and portable sets in a complex and excellently choreographed scene.

The acting was also impeccable.

Lucy Peacock gave a convincing portrayal of Julia Hudson, the talented actress who gets blackballed thanks to difficulties with the director. And Lorne Kennedy played a particularly nasty director, maybe even a little over the edge sanity-wise.

But brilliant sets and wonderful acting can’t carry a show when the plot doesn’t fulfil its main purpose. This is assuming the main purpose really was to take an inside look into the chaotic and sometimes unstable acting “world.”

The script was clever and well-written, but too much time was spent in the first half of the play familiarizing the audience with the actors’ theatrical woes. By the time it got around to the actual revenge sequence (for which some of us waited the whole first half), it was too late.

If the characters had spent less time agonizing and more time doing something, the play would have moved along at a quicker and steadier pace. As it was, some of the audience had to be content with off-color remarks and physical humor to fill time.