Writing and acting count in this Skin Flick

 

 

BY PAT DONNELLY, GAZETTE CULTURE CRITIC AUGUST 17, 2011 3:04 AM

 

 

What happens when boring middle-class people suddenly face economic disaster?

In Norm Foster's latest play, Skin Flick, those ordinary folks next door who just lost their jobs are trying to score some quick cash by making a porn flick. But, of course, they remain the same likeable, well-meaning suburbanites they have always been.

Daphne (Pauline Little) and Rollie (Don Anderson) have been married for 28 years and have a son in college - whom they sincerely hope will never, ever find out how they're planning to pay the mortgage. In fact, the idea would never have occurred to either of them if Rollie hadn't mistakenly brought an X-rated film home from the video store. These two are so innocent that Rollie's friend Alex (Marcel Jeannin), recently fired from the TV station where he had been working as a cameraman, has to educate them on the basics of porn. Daphne quickly perceives an economic opportunity. When a young woman named Jill (Amy Sobol), coincidentally an out-of-work actor, delivers a balloon message to the wrong house, circumstantial inevitability sets in. A naughty sex farce replete with double entendres kicks into high gear.

Foster, who has around 40 plays to his credit, is our most-produced playwright for a reason: he's very, very funny. And in this case, he has to be. Otherwise Skin Flick would come off as a male chauvinist's apologia for porn production and addiction. Which it doesn't. Foster writes with a lighthearted attitude, a keen ear for quips and a wonderful knack for making us feel that we have already met his characters somewhere, perhaps in our local supermarket. As for their moral relativity, that rings rather familiar, too. Skin Flick, which premiered in Halifax in 2009, begins with a brief scene that looks like a squabble on a film set. Jill berates Alex for staring at her breasts, then demands to know how they look. "Straight out. Like laser beams," he replies. "I think you fixed my bad eye."Vanity satisfied, she heads back to work.

Rollie interrupts the scene - which is repeated later within the context of the story - taking on the role of (highly unreliable) narrator. He welcomes us into his home and life. Determined not to offend, he assures us that he has deleted all expletives. Thus begins a brilliant running gag that has everyone editing out their own F-words, much to their own surprise, throughout the play.

The women in Skin Flick quickly show their dominatrix sides. Daphne takes on the role of director/producer. Jill insists on the right to choose her male lead. No one strikes her fancy until Alex's mild-mannered bookie, Byron (Paul Van Dyck), wanders in. Sparks fly. And the cameras are ready to roll.

Director Andrew Johnston has cast wisely and kept the laughs flowing. Little, who is making a return to the stage after many years in film and voice work, is rock solid as the pragmatic Daphne. Jeannin is hilarious as the lecherous Alex (a role Foster has performed himself). Anderson plays it TV-host-bland as the unassuming Rollie. Sobol and Van Dyck, as the aspiring "porn stars," are a match made in comedic heaven.

Skin Flick, by Norm Foster, continues at Hudson Village Theatre in Hudson until Aug. 28. Tickets cost $27 for matinées and $31 for evening shows. Call 450-458-5361; visit www.villagetheatre.ca.

pdonnell@ montrealgazette.com

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