Written by Julia Jarcho. Directed by Jay Turvey. At the Assembly Theatre. Runs until November 19.
Grimly Handsome is a triptych thriller exploring the darker side of human and even animal behaviour. But, despite its subject matter, the play is only mildly provocative.
Playwright Julia Jarcho has created a dark world filled with brooding men, a serial killer, corpse-eating animals, and even a dash of adultery. In her program note, she says her inspiration came from how we should all allow ourselves to experience the strangeness around us, to not smooth over the “incommensurabilities and bizarries that assail [us] every day.” It’s always dangerous when a playwright speaks for an audience as a way to explain their work. Surely the play should do that itself.
The accomplished actors—Julia Course, Jeff Irving, and Ben Sanders—play multiple parts each, and all performances are clear, distinct, and help establish the murky world Jarcho has written. Director Jay Turvey is fastidious in focusing each scene as economically as possible in such a small-playing space, crammed with cut-down Christmas trees, tree stumps, and furniture representing a small apartment. Mikael Kangas’ dim lighting also adds to the foreboding atmosphere. Together, the cast and creative team bring out the ominous tone of the piece.
The cast does a good job at portraying characters who appear innocent and charming but who conceal a more sinister reality. That said, I can’t help thinking that Jarcho tries too hard to be provocative. The revelation of the story’s details seem laboured and obvious, resulting in a play that falls very short of the playwright’s intentions.
For tickets or more information, click here.
To read fun facts about the cast—and their animal alter ego!—click here.