"Your head hurts because there are 100 drag queens in high heels walking around in there waiting to lip synch," is playwright Amy Lee Levoie's witty and evocatively accurate description of the plight of a small town gay struggling to exit the closet. It is one of many very witty lines that stud Stopheart, piercing through the Canadian-Gothic dramatics that form the core of the script like glistening diamonds.
Stopheart is a difficult play and the coming out story at the center is heartbreaking - at times this makes the comedy that much more pointed, at others the laughs just get lost. Approximately six heavy metaphors too many muddle the plot and the big reveal at the end doesn't quite sink in until after the show ends. But there are marvelous moments: Elizabeth Saunders rehearses her besotted husband Martin Julian for her imminent demise in a vain attempt to help him prepare. They travel through an emotional terrain of despair, hope and true love that is devastating and hilarious all at once, a stunning piece of writing that the actors bite into and make shine.
Amitai Marmorstein, who was such a revelation in Legoland, has the more difficult task of being the purveyor of plot and portents, and holding the production together as eccentric characters swirl around him. The sarcastic gay quips come fast and furious but his longing for love is palpable and his big scene, just before the symbolism at the end swallows him whole, is a masterpiece of understatement and power. The balcony scene of seduction with the hunky Garret C Smith had everyone, not just the gay men, who has made terrible emotional and sexual choices, squirming in their seats with arousal and horror.
Hours later, I am still puzzling through some of the many metaphors and debating just who the injured heart that drives the plot belongs to. That the imagery and characters got so far under my skin and are still there is a wonderful result.
Stopheart continues until Sun, May 26 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. factorytheatre.ca