Review: Risk Everything

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

George F. Walker’s Risk Everything, originally written as part of his Suburban Motel series of plays, had is European premiere at The New Theatre last night, presented by Whirligig Theatre.  Walker, one of Canada’s most prolific and acclaimed playwrights, wrote the Suburban Motel series of plays all based in the same motel room but with each play being independent in its own right. Risk Everything is the third of six and centres on the dysfunctional family life of Denise (Teri Fitzgerald) and her mother, Carol (Ann Russell).

A bruised Carol is on run, allegedly from her abusive partner and is hiding out at a sleazy motel, assisted by her long-suffering daughter, Denise. Carol’s true nature of being a compulsive liar, as well as an alcoholic and gambler, quickly comes to light. She is, in fact, on the run from Steamboat Jefferies, a notorious criminal who she’s swindled out of $68,000. Denise’s gormless husband, RJ (Neill Fleming), arrives to help but proves to be anything but helpful. As the plot unravels, the audience becomes privy to Denise’s hardships; such as her daughter being taken away from her by social services and the implication that she was a prostitute. The core of this story is Denise and Carol’s relationship which serves to ask the question- can a person really change who they are? RJ’s television addiction masks his disdain for reality; Carol’s innate desire to take extreme risks leads her to sacrifice those she loves the most; and Denise’s reformed character is merely hiding a bad girl acting like a good girl.  The humour heightens to farce when Carol meets Michael (Pat Nolan), a porn director who is shooting a film in the room next door. Michael is quickly taken in by Carol’s manipulative nature and things progress from bad to worse.

Risk Everything is consistent throughout, under the direction of Liam Halligan, with well paced drama and laughs. Fleming plays mostly for laughs and is well supported by Russell, who likewise is the centre of much humour.  The more dramatic role of Denise is well portrayed by Fitzgerald, who gets to tug on the heartstrings a little but also delivers some great one-liners.  Nolan’s lesser role equally brings the laughs in this riotous sit-com. Casting could have considered actors with less physical similarities than Fleming and Nolan. There was notable audience confusion, although perhaps intentionally, during Nolan’s first scene on stage. The Canadian accents do slip frequently but this doesn’t detract from the overall piece.

A simple and functional set design (Maree Kearns) of a standard motel room and subtle lighting (Eoin Lennon) work well in allowing the dialogue and performance to carry this farcical show. There are rarely moments when there is no audible laughter from the audience, which is testament to the comedic performances and low-brow dialogue exchanges.

Writer: George F. Walker.

Director: Liam Halligan.

Runs until July 18th 2015.

Photo courtesy of The New Theatre.

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