If you need a little something to perk you up from the depths of January despair, A Stitch in Time by Dorothy Lees-Blakey with Brian Blakey is a good place to start. This outrageously funny farce is one of the most polished comedies I’ve seen, reminiscent of the physical style in Theatre Eridale’s production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth from last year.
The plot follows a series of mix-ups and mistaken identities as Dr. Moulineaux, the show’s protagonist, tries to cover his tracks after he spends a night out dancing with his mistress and attempts to secure an apartment for them to meet in away from his wife’s prying eyes. While this may not sound like much in terms of storyline, don’t be deceived. What appears flat on paper is brought to dynamic, hilarious life by a flawless cast of incredibly talented physical actors. Under the direction of David Matheson, every opportunity for comedy has been crafted with perfect timing, and he uses the script to its best advantage while also creating moments not provided in the text.
The set serves the busy, fast-paced production perfectly, providing numerous doors for entrances and exits, but also for hiding places. The slamming of doors in various characters’ faces throughout becomes a comedy show in and of itself.
Each of the characters is more of a caricature than an actual person, allowing for a removal from reality that makes the stakes in A Stitch in Time funny rather than tragic. Each falls into well-worn archetypes: the husband, the wife, the mother-in-law, the soldier, the mistress. What makes these characters believable is, in a way, their lack of believability. There’s no way to perform these characters halfway; it’s all or nothing, and the cast makes the bold choice to go all out in embracing the huge personalities assigned them.
Textually, the show exists on three planes. The first is the dialogue that bounces between the characters, which everyone takes part in. The second occurs between two characters as an aside from anyone else who happens to be in the room at the time. This is also shared directly with the audience. The third plane consists of asides made by one character directly to the audience, in which that character’s immediate perception is shared. A great deal of the comedy in the show arises from the last two planes because of the importance of dramatic irony. As spectators, we see and understand everything; no plot twist or disguise is hidden from us. But when characters are kept in ignorance by others and they express their confusion to those in the know, the audience takes full advantage of a character’s misery and ends up rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter.
The third act of A Stitch in Time, however, pulls everyone back to a more realistic place. There is genuine sympathy for the characters as couples are reunited in a Midsummer Night’s Dream kind of way. This feels well-deserved after the tribulation and confusion of the past two days, even if, like in Midsummer, not all reunions are completely honest.
A Stitch in Time runs until February 2 at the Erindale Studio Theatre.