Good plays + good actors + good directing = great entertainment.
Simple. Neat. But, oh, so hard to accomplish.
Not for the Mercury Players. Their tandem presentation of Power Plays scored from every angle.
Good plays? The Way of All Fish and Virtual Reality. Check.
Good actors? Lindsay Anderson and Elissa Barron for the first opus and Gregg Perry and Michael Terides for the second one. Check.
Good direction? Gregg Perry. Check.
The idea of “power plays” was sheer genius because power was the name of the game but whose power, what power and when, how and why it would show itself was always just around the next turn of two tangled plots.
Anderson and Barron began the evening in The Way of All Fish as a twitchy boss with a duffer of a secretary but the balance of power swung so often between the two that any but the best actresses would have been seasick before the play was completed.
Not these two, though. Barron managed to make everyone wonder if her actions were those of a calculating schemer, a psychopathic killer, an airhead or just one of those people who are always in the right place at the right time and, at the end, we still weren’t sure.
Anderson’s snippy socialite quickly unravelled and then knitted herself up before exhibiting some sneaky tricks of her own and again, when it was all done, no one could be sure how much was real and how much was a smokescreen.
So, by time the play, Virtual Reality, hit the stage after the intermission, we were more than ready to suspend disbelief.
And Perry and Terides delivered virtual reality in spades.
In front of a white wall and a plain wooden bench, they created a strange world where nothing actually existed but where everything could be seen, heard, tasted and felt.
Their emotions emerged to meet this stupefying challenge and, again, as in the women’s play, the two men saw the balance of power swing between them like a pendulum.
The four riveting performances had everyone in the audience on the edges of their seats for the entire evening, proving again that live theatre in the Cowichan Valley is always a great night out.