The stars align for Halloween with a new play Sucker by Kat Sandler - author of the brilliant Delicacy and Rock - at the Storefront Theatre, which also presented the terrifying and wonderful The Bone House. Yes there is vampirism involved to create a tidy Halloween tie-in but Sandler has way more on her mind than just offering a treat - this apple doesn't have razor blades hidden within but the laughs slice just as sharply and one bite and the audience is hooked.
Constance, the regal and scarily, sexually, maternal Astrid Van Wieren, notes that, "Everyone grieves differently," and the characters in Sucker process their grief in extreme but utterly believable ways. The tales of why they are grieving are outrageously funny and simply heartbreaking. Sandler has written an unconventional conventional play that moves smoothly along - powered by laugh-out-loud one-liners and wordplay - while constantly surprising as it moves inexorably and speedily towards an ending that leaves tears in the eyes. I should've seen it coming but was so absorbed as the proceedings spun into uproarious farce that the emotional wallop hit just where it was aimed.
Andy Trithardt is always a pleasure to watch and the sexy ginger (it is the subject of an extremely funny gag so is relevant) handles the complicated dialogue - that balances hilarity and pathos in equal measures - with such skill that it seems completely natural. Jessica Moss, as his sister, is a revelation as she easily glides from sight gag to violence to sweetness to agony without missing a beat. She is the most sympathetic comic wannabe-vampire yet. Van Wieren completes the triangle with mystery, heart and a beautiful singing voice. All of the three have big moment monologues that reveal, tug at the soul and reduce the audience to laughter.
Colin Munch gets great comic mileage out of his monologues and G Kyle Shields has a limber physicality and a sly presence that garners laughs and identification. The two have a moment near the end that, in a less well constructed play, would have stopped the show while waiting for the audience to stop laughing.
Sandler seems to enjoy taking the audience on a ride through a preposterous premise that never deviates from real life, because nothing can be as preposterous as reality. Sucker is peppered with hilarious pop culture references that never pander - the orphan speech is a stunner, tying disparate ideas and touchstones into a comic whole - and a subtle moment when Jessica Moss casually caresses a Robert Pattinson photograph pinned to the wall, wordlessly ties everything together for her character.
Sucker is hilarious fun and that it also has a lot to say about coping with grief, religion, familial ties and the random joy and terror of life, is a bonus that elevates it into high art.
Sucker continues until Sat, Nov 9 at the Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor St W. theatrebrouhaha.com