Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Neptune Scores With "Bingo!"

I don't think I have ever had a bad experience at Neptune Theatre. Seriously. Even so, I don't recall ever laughing quite as much as I did a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a performance of their new play "Bingo!".

I know what you are thinking, and no, this is not a play about a dog with a cool "name-o", nor does it involve anything glow-in-the-dark. It is actually "The Big Chill" transferred to a Cape Breton town - a group of middle-agers gather together to attend their 30-year high school reunion, re-hash old memories, stereotypes and neuroses and discuss new ones. Some of them have stayed put, some have moved on (to Halifax, and Western Canada), both literally and figuratively. All have regrets and "what-if's?" and they have all changed, yet haven't changed a bit at the same time.

First we are introduced to the male's of the group (left-to-right) - Dookie, Nurk and Heifer (in traditional guy fashion, they have given each other silly and slightly derogatory nicknames - silly boys) - in their hometown hotel room, drinking (duh) and talking about their lives. Heifer is a chubby, laid-back jokester; Nurk is a neurotic and slightly uptight engineer; Dookie is an arrogant real estate agent.

Next, we see the girls - Boots and Bitsy - chatting in a local bar about...well, everything (y'all, Bitsy talks A LOT). "Boots" is a tough-talking, leather-jacket-wearing sarcasm machine who clearly covers up her own insecurities with biting comments. "Bitsy" is a slightly ditzy and simultaneously a chatterbox and a shy introvert.

Later, the fivesome comes together and sparks fly, secrets are revealed and new connections are made. (I don't want to reveal too much of the plot because you should go see it for yourself). Leave it to a play set in Cape Breton to be named after a drinking game!

The play has a very simple set-up - there are only two sets, and all scenes consist of the characters basically sitting around and talking. Characters only wear one outfit throughout the entire play, there is no music except during the changes in scene, and few props (except an ever-present bottle of Jagermeister). But the dialogue is rapid-fire and absolutely hilarious. The audience the night I went was practically rolling in the aisles. The cast not only delivered the lines perfectly, but they each had a knack for conveying things through a simple facial expression. I probably enjoyed Heather Rankin's performance the most (she clearly has great comic timing), as I felt she had some of the funniest expressions and body language, plus I felt I could relate the most to her character. However, all the cast were perfect in their roles and pulled me into their individual character, making me laugh at them, feel sorry for them and admire them in sequence.

At the beginning of each scene, one of the main characters would stand at the front of the stage, in a spotlight and deliver a monologue that usually either revealed something about their character or about the next part of the play. They shared an anecdote, a thought or two and sometimes a great piece of advice or a profound insight about life in general. I loved these "intros" -  parts that particularly stuck with me were Boots' comments about happiness and what it means ("How can you know what happiness is, until you know what it isn't?") and Bitsy's story about an old man in her community who is her "hero" and who makes her feel less invisible and insignificant.

So, in a nutshell, the funny dialogue alone is enough reason to go see Bingo! (imho) but in addition you may end up coming away with an insight or two into life in general and your place in it, and isn't that what theatre is all about?


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