MAL AND CARA
Troupe CMS Players, PAL Studio Theatre, until April 28th
My Two Cents
It takes a certain amount of guts to create a new theatre troupe and debut with an original play. So for sheer nerve, Troupe CMS Players and Clive Scarff have my admiration. However, Mal and Cara misses the mark in too many areas to be considered a success.
The play starts out promisingly enough. Mal, a captain with BC Ferries, contemplates his life with his wife, Cara, and how he feels dissatisfied. The first scene builds to a clever payoff, but unfortunately the rest of the show never delivers on the promise of the opening. Scarff’s script itself has plenty of clever one-liners and visual gags that I suspect would actually work in the hands of more accomplished performers, however the actors here are unfortunately just not up to the task. More than few lines were flubbed and many jokes were delivered so off-handedly, it speaks to the strength of the script that any landed at all. Act two managed to surprise and, though there was an extreme case of “telling” rather than “showing”, it moved at a quicker pace than act one and offered a satisfying resolution. The local references peppered throughout worked well at engaging the audience.
It’s not to say the script is without issue. The character of Mal blasts his friends and spouse for fat-shaming, yet we as the audience are expected to laugh at the larger-proportioned man in spandex. The joke is that he looks silly in tight clothing because he’s overweight. It’s not subtle. It felt mean-spirited because, to me, he appeared to be the butt of the joke, and not included in it.
There are a couple of decent performances. Kyle Mosonyi, as Kris, delves into the absurdity of his character and sells it with charm and conviction. Hannah McGlynn is severely underused, but her character in act two is portrayed with just the appropriate amount of levity, swagger and comedic timing that unfortunately highlighted what was lacking with the rest of the cast.
I also appreciate the decision to open up the back curtain at the PAL Theatre, which is and always has been one of Vancouver’s hidden gems in terms of theatrical venues. The back window is used to great effect, as the setting of the show is an apartment in downtown Vancouver, and thusly the set/setting works better than just about any element of the production. However, the scene changes are painfully slow and done in silence, which was an odd choice considering that music was used in other parts of the show.
The supportive audience on the night I attended proved that there is a community for the Troupe CMS Players, however if they want to prove themselves to Vancouver’s wider theatre community, they will need to step up their game in terms of the final product. I am happy to support new work and there’s clearly a lot of heart and effort that’s gone into Mal and Cara, but unfortunately I just don’t really think it works.