Review by Graham Hicks, HicksBiz.com
What other adjectives can I use to entice you to make the effort to get out on a cold February day to catch a wonderful piece of theatre happening until Feb. 24, 2018 at the Varscona Theatre.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown has EVERYTHING going for it!
An excellent script done with Latino/Iberian flair, great songs, eight fine comedic actors all with excellent voices, a cracker-jack live band on stage, wonderful colours and costumes, and, overall, a fine zaniness that so many shows attempt, but few pull off with such aplomb.
Women on the Verge is a superior farce – far more intelligent than most: One man with not one, not two, but three entangled relationships on the go. “Love is eternal,” sighs Ivan. “It’s the faces that change.”
There are three super-stars of high-camp comedy in this show. What fun it is to watch Jocelyn Ahif as the jilted lover and central character, Andrea House chewing on the scenery as the jilted wife, and the fast-emerging Michelle Diaz as the model with a multiple-lover problem.
Along the way, Jason Hardwick stitches the proceedings together as the ever-dancin’ commentator in disguise as the taxi driver. What fun to see Edmontonian Vance Avery, who has enjoyed a fine career “abroad” (i.e. out of Edmonton) come home to play Ivan, the sturdy gigolo who just can’t resist the next attractive women down the line.
Director Kate Ryan has done an excellent job negotiating the shoals of producing a Latino-in-temperament comedy with Canadian actors. Face it, Edmonton in February within our polite and shy national identity is a far cry from a steamy summer night in Spain in a vivid society with no emotional filters! Somehow, it all works – the actors are most successful at speaking and singing with Spanish accents, we manage to forget the frosty outdoors thanks to the warmth and humour and colour pouring out over the audience.
The casting is amongst the best that will be seen this theatre season.
Who cannot but love veteran comedienne/musician/singer Andrea House as Ivan’s ex-wife Lucia, plotting her revenge, with no forgiveness, for his having left her … 20 years ago! In scene after scene, House has you rolling in laughter … and she has an innate sense of just how far to take things.
Women on the Verge moves Michelle Diaz from a debutante on Edmonton stages, where she’s been performing for two years since her theatre schooling at MacEwan University and Victoria School for the Performing Arts, to the very front ranks of the city’s comedic actors. This young woman knows how to milk everything possible out of role – she is equally hilarious in the role of man-crazy model Candela as House is playing Lucia.
Jocelyn Asif, in the lead role of the betrayed mistress Pepa, must tone it down somewhat as she’s the glue that holds this show together. But as Pepa, she has enormous fun being the foil to Diaz and House and just about everybody else around her.
The music certainly helps transcend the outside-the-theatre realities. The splendid stage band are regulars at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre with a few months off thanks to a non-musical play gracing that stage. They push out Latino rhythms by the score - tangos and rumba and mambo and foxtrot. The cast does not so much walk as dance its way through the show.
Kudos to director Kate Ryan for pulling all these diverse strings together into a beautiful whole.
You’ll dance away from the Varscona Theatre after Women on the Verge, oblivious to the world outside.
It’s that good a show.