My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The Love Crimes of Frances Lark:
noir camp

by Drew Rowsome -

Cabin 13 at the isolated, possibly abandoned, Sleepy Meadows resort. An approaching thunderstorm. A love triangle with lurid lesbian undertones that echo the murder that occurred in the cabin years before. A lot of alcohol and a desperate game of charades. What could possibly go wrong?

When one is in the film noir-stained hands of playwright Hope Thompson (Stiff), secrets will be revealed, sexual repression will explode, gender will be fluid, and there will probably be more murder.

The Love Crimes of Frances Lark begins with an radio announcer dripping innuendo and ominous predictions. It is a hilarious opening that seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what follows other than to set the mood and era. No matter, once the action starts and the plot dances into campy melodrama, logic is subservient to laughter.

A great deal of the fun is in the teasing out of the ever-more-convoluted plot points, and Thompson turns exposition into comic revelations that illustrate the aching agony of suppressed desires. Director Clinton Walker keeps everything moving at a brisk pace and actually achieves some suspense amidst the droll proceedings.

Everyone has a skeleton in their closet (sometimes as a companion) except for the plucky heroine, and object of desires, Ava. Adrya Duff is a bouncy oblivious bimbo who poses, screams and is terrorized to appealing effect. Her recreation, echoes, of horror flick damsels in distress, earn hearty and deserved laughter.

Brandon James Sim as Jack is so matinée idol handsome, simmering-when-he-wants-to-strut sexy, that his secret has to be a doozy. It is. But it can't compare to the secret that Johnnie Walker's Molly is hiding. Walker is a delight as the buttoned down accountant and his sky-high eyebrows (courtesy of drag makeover-meister David Hawe) work overtime to amplify his arch delivery. One hand gesture or perfectly timed second of side-eye is enough to convulse the audience with laughter. That his "secret" is obvious from very early on is immaterial, the fun is in watching him get there.

The Love Crimes of Frances Lark is short, sweet and just short of deliriously funny. The film noir setting and mood is restrained instead of escalating into riotous camp. It is a little frustrating, but then, conceptually, it is exactly the experience of the characters who are denied their true selves. Thompson milks the phrase, with and without air-quotes, "a friend from work," for all it is worth and the discipline of that very film noir effort, adds a depth to what otherwise would be frothy romp.

The Love Crimes of Frances Lark runs in tandem with Carolyn Taylor and Dawn Whitwell's "improvised docu-comedy" Wand Portal featuring Gavin Crawford, Elvira Kurt, Moynan King and many more, until Thurs, June 11 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.