Review: Quick Exits

Westmount’s Dramatis Personae presents six short dark comedies

By Byron Toben

The title of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944 existential classic No Exit bears no relation to Westmount community theatre Dramatis Personae’s latest show Quick Exits.

Sartre’s long one act is a real downer, with quotes like Hell Is Other People, whereas this collection of six slightly dark short one acts by five authors celebrates the absurdities of life in a truly audience-friendly manner.

Two of the six were by one of my favorite witty writers, David Ives, best known to Montreal audiences by the heralded Venus in Furs at the Centaur in November 2014. Mr. Ives is also known for a ton of short plays, six of which were done under the direction of Jude Beny at Dawson’s Theatre program in October 2015.

One really hilarious selection from the Dawson show, included here, was Time Flies. Ellen Rubin and Henry Nesvadba as two mayflies, bedecked with gossamer wings, giant sunglass bug eyes and dual antennae, flit and flutter across the stage. The dénouement comes when BBC natural history star David Attenborough (Paddy Cardarelli) reveals that May flies only live one day.

Ive’s other piece was Variations on the Death of Trotsky. Here, in 1940 Mexico, Mrs. Trotsky (Ann Elbourne) comes across a 2015 encyclopedia that reveals that hubby Leon (Malcolm McRae) is to be assassinated that very day. Thence follows various re-enactments of this announcement. Clive Brewer is terrific as Ramon the gardener.

Prediction of impending death is also the premise of Misfortune by Mark Henry Levine. In this, two lovers, Cindy (Harriet Dove) and Barry (Desmond Soltendieck) are finishing a dinner at a Chinese restaurant when Barry’s fortune cookie seems to be a misfortune cookie predicting that his dinner partner will kill him that evening. Examination of all the supplies of cookies over the protestations of the waitress (Karen Saunder) has similar warnings. (I was amazed to see there are numerous outfits on the Internet selling such cookies, the concept apparently dates from a 1985 TV episode of The Twilight Zone).

Seeing the Light by Robert McKay involves two military officers (Karen Sauder and Jennifer Chopra) who have been monitoring a light, which, if it goes on, warns of a pending nuclear attack by evil-doers. When, after 15 years, it finally goes on, a decision is to be made… a malfunction or no?

Numbers by Greg Kreutz deals with an employee (Carla Samuel) about be fired by a somewhat robotic manager (Paddy Cardarelli) because company policy demands it if her numbers are not high enough.

Finally, in Three Turkeys Waiting For Corncobs by Don Nigro, two Southern USA accented parent Turkeys (Clive Brewer and Jennifer Chopra) are flummoxed when their rebellious daughter (Dana Murphy) decides to leave the corncob forest to become a saxophonist — even though she has no lips and her beak won’t suffice. No birdie costumes here, but great Turkeyish body movement creates creditability.

Plaudits to new artistic director Christopher Moore, taking over from the 8-year tenure of Jacqueline Van de Geer, who really raised the professional quality of this enthusiastic amateur group.

Images: Malcolm McRae

Quick Exits shows at Victoria Hall, 4626 Sherbrooke W, on Sunday, December 6 at 3 pm and 7:30 pm and ends on Monday, December 7 at 8 pm.

Tickets: suggested donation of $10
Reservations: or 514 484-2016 and 514 486-7423.

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

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