“I’d like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.” How can a question so seemingly simple become so complicated, convoluted, and conflict-ridden? Well, after watching the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre’s “Black Comedy” and the short curtain-warmer “The Marriage Proposal”, it begins to make a little more sense. The father-daughter-son-in-law triangle is explored in both of these plays, each written in an entirely different time and place, yet touching on very similar themes. It’s classic in-law family dynamics at its best.
The show begins with a short one act play titled “The Marriage Proposal”. Evidently, if you are heavy into the arts scene and the history of theatre, this is a classic piece by Anton Chekov written in late 19th century Russia. The story is centred around three characters: a father, his daughter, and their neighbour who wishes to marry her. None of them, by the way, are remotely attractive, and all of them entirely desperate, which makes it all the more funny. While the story is simple, the acting is not. All three characters are larger than life, each with their own brand of wacky Eastern Europeanness. The actors are so over the top with their physical acting and their costumes; at one point I think all three were either yelling, shrieking or crying simultaneously!
“Black Comedy” takes place in a flat in London in the 1960s. Brind, the struggling artist, wants to marry Carol and he’s invited her and her father over to his flat to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Without much furniture to entertain with, Brind and Carol cleverly swap their gay neighbour’s tasteful pieces with their own while he’s away on business. Brind must impress upon his future father-in-law that he can provide a great life for Carol and is not as poor as she thinks. The same night, in a stroke of luck, a famous art collector would also be stopping by to view Brind’s works; if he sold a few pieces it would definitely prove his worth to his fiancee’s father and he’d no doubt delight in their future wedding plans. Unfortunately, about a minute into the play, the fuse is blown in Brind’s apartment building just before the arrival of their guests. The rest of the show takes place in the dark (but luckily, the audience can see just fine!) A few more visitors crop up as the night goes on that make for a very entertaining evening.
A play that is carried out in the dark is a very original concept that was executed brilliantly. The comedy was awesome. Not only were the character’s interactions and personal dilemmas dramatic, but the fact that everything was happening in darkness added another layer of complexity (and hilarity). I won’t give anything away, but there’s one scene where Brind is frantically moving furniture in the dark, trying to keep anyone from noticing he’s doing so is amazing and nearly had me keeled over.
I highly recommend the double-bill. I was in stitches most of the night, along with the rest of the audience. The characters are outrageous in personality and intensely physical. Much like “Fawlty Towers” or “Little Britain”, you’ll love this show for its characters. “Black Comedy” is Brit-Com at it’s best. If you’re in the mood for a laugh or a fun, light-hearted date-night, these are two shows you don’t want to miss.
“Black Comedy” and “The Marriage Proposal” are the kick-off to the Arts Club Theatre Company’s 46th Season and shows at the Stanley Industrial Alliance theatre in Vancouver at 2750 Granville St. until October 11. Click here to purchase tickets or to read more information about “Black Comedy”.