My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The Marquise of O delivers a happy ending pregnant with emotional upheaval

by Drew Rowsome

Is there anything as bittersweet as a happy ever after that actually feels utterly tragic? 

The Marquise of O begins as a rollicking folk tale mixed with contemporary social media/reality TV references and cutting edge technology. The story appears straightforward despite the anachronisms and subtle symbols that keep everything slightly off balance and intriguing. Everything speeds towards that happy ending, before taking a sudden left turn into philosophy, science and moral dilemmas. Pointed social commentary makes the symbols suddenly potent and, with the shadows of Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi looming, all of our preconceptions and assumptions are challenged.

If that sounds like a lot of ideas to be supported by a slender plot, it is. But creators Lauren Gillis and Ted Witzel keep the action spinning - the set is a marvel that is a character in itself - and the difficult philosophy is absorbed as if by osmosis. And there is more than enough comedy, mainly crossing the fourth wall with gleeful abandon, to balance the melodrama and data. The Marquise's mysterious pregnancy is not really so mysterious, but it does give birth to enough drama and questions to easily fill a much longer production.

The cast works hard juggling time periods, hard physical labour and simultaneous broad comedy and subtle work. Rong Fu grounds the proceedings with an earth mother calm and some impressive spit takes. Eva Wylden and Richard Partington, as the beleaguered parents, provide able comic relief and moral ambiguity. G Kyle Shields (Sucker) gets the most entertaining bit as a dragged-out midwife, but also utilizes his multiple characters to give an extra sexual/gender component to the evening that elevates The Marquise of O beyond a simple condemnation of heterosexual violence.

Kaleb Alexander (Delicacy, Family Story) utilizes his impossibly good Prince Charming-esque looks to create a Count that, through mime, dance and sonorous tones, is as irresistible as he is potentially evil. But the heaviest lifting, literally, is done by poor Tyler Hagemann who moves sets, incarnates various characters including a well-worked horse, and then has to explain, in an impossible task that shouldn't work as well as it does, Kantian philosophy and the quantum theory underpinnings of Shrodinger's cat.

From a simple if unusual story through a dazzling tour de force designed drama to a thought-provoking happy ending, The Marquise of O is a mesmerizing journey using theatre as a metaphor for reality and the nature of humanity.

The Marquise of O continues until Sun, Aug 16 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St as part of the SummerWorks Festival.,