Part history lesson, part political and social satire, the frank theatre company production of All In asks a lot more questions than it answers, but that is exactly what playwright Jan Derbyshire had in mind.
In her program notes, which is required reading before the show starts, Derbyshire prepares us: “I don’t think I have found any answers with this play… What I hope is that I found some conversations that will entertain you enough to leave the theatre with your own mix of troubling questions…”
Based on the experiences of participants at the frank’s All the World’s a Stage workshop earlier this year, Derbyshire has taken what she heard from those participants, creating a melting pot of her observations in All In.
Derbyshire sets the tone for the piece immediately by ironically placing All In inside a workshop that is tackling the same theme of “belonging” as the real-life workshop. Six actors playing workshop participants are tasked with coming up with a game around that theme, incorporating the rainbow flag. As the group struggles with creating that game, Derbyshire pokes fun at our collective gay and Canadian smugness around diversity and constantly pushes our buttons as she takes direct aim at our obsession with political correctness.
At its best when sticking to the lighter side of satire, there are a few points in its short 65 minutes when Derbyshire rants, as if those those particular passages are coming from an entirely different show; fortunately these moments are short lived.
The entire cast here is committed, although it is the realistic performances from Patrick Mercado, Mitch Janzen and Janice Santos Valdez that really resonate. Janzen is particularly watchable as he tackles Derbyshire’s abundant tongue-in-cheek humour.
Perhaps surprisingly, the reaction from the audience opening night was a tad reserved, seemingly unsure as to how to react as Derbyshire needles us with our misplaced superiority as a gay community in a belief that we are somehow more enlightened than the rest of the world. Thankfully there was a gradual thaw as the night progressed though, as we realized that perhaps we shouldn’t take ourselves quite so seriously. Canada is known for its self-deprecating sense of humour, perhaps it is time for the gay community to do likewise.
Written and directed by Jan Derbyshire. A frank theatre company presentation. On stage at the PAL Studio Theatre through October 17, 2013. Visit http://www.thefranktheatre.com for tickets and information.