Theatre Review: Spirit Level – a little comedy bauble

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Before getting into its traditional holiday spirit with its annual pantomime, Metro Theatre takes on spirits of a different kind with Pam Valentine’s Spirit Level, on stage until December 4th.

Jack (Ryan Johnson), a successful writer, and his wife Susie (Jane Craven) are recently deceased. Problem is they are rejected at the Pearly Gates because Jack decided to “be honest” and tell Saint Peter he was an atheist. Sent back to their summer cottage, the duo has fun scaring the local estate agent (Dave McNea) who is trying to rent it out. Along come Simon (Robert Mederios) and his pregnant wife Felicity (Colleen Lornie), falling in love with the cottage and the fact that it was once owned by the famous writer. Helped by their own guardian angel (Tara Webster), Jack and Susie are given the chance to prove themselves worthy of admittance to heaven.

The cast is mostly successful in the challenge of Valentine’s story where a much of the show has two conversations happening simultaneously: one between the living and the other between the dead. Timing here is everything and demands a crisp pace between those overlapping conversations. At times it felt like the actors were so busy thinking about the mechanics of how to effectively deliver these two dialogues, that there was a certain monotone in their delivery. But when they simply let go and had fun playing against each other, it was really quite exciting to watch.

Craven and Johnson worked well together as the dead couple lovingly bickering back and forth as we imagined they in did in life and Tara Webster obviously relished her role as the modern day guardian angel complete with a cell phone with its heavenly ringtone.

Spirit Level
Jane Craven and Tara Webster in the Metro Theatre production of Spirit Level

Accents did seem to get the better of some of the cast here and one has to wonder why director Don Briard didn’t simply abandon the idea given accents are only used as a method to establish location (and really, Spirit Level could just as easily take place at a summer cabin on Bowen Island than a small summer cottage in the English countryside).

Once again Metro Theatre proves its worth with a beautiful and realistic set design from Don Briard realized by Dwayne Campbell, Blaine Anderson and Tracy Chernaske. Briard also takes on role of lighting designer and seems to have overcome the lighting issues Metro faced in the past.

A sort of Heaven Can Wait meets It’s A Wonderful Life, despite its pacing issues Metro Theatre’s Spirit Level is a shiny little comedy bauble in keeping with this time of year.

3 Out of 5 Stars Spirit Level
Metro Theatre
6 November – 4 December 2010

Tickets are $18 – $21 are available to calling 604-266-7191 or at the door.

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