There’s no question about it: it’s the script that’s the champion right now over at the SBW Stables Theatre. Rick Viede’s A Hoax is extraordinarily well-written, with whip-smart dialogue that manages to be both genuinely funny and genuinely disturbing. In different hands, this play would not nearly be half as successful. With Viede’s words and structural composition, this play is a hit.
The topic isn’t so new anymore — the story of a white man who writes a book from the perspective of an Aboriginal woman and has to hire an actor to play the author, hijinks ensue and things spiral out of control — and the concept of memoir as fabricated truth with a side of public deception has been rising in the public consciousness since well before James Frey became an Oprah-boosted household name.
But even if the topic isn’t new, A Hoax is; it’s a fresh take on a contemporary issue du jour, because it finds its relevance in our own backyard. There’s something so innately relatable about the string of hotel rooms, about the social worker author, about Miri Smith, the actor hired to play the fictional Currah. Maybe it’s just the refreshing Griffin experience — new, local stories deliverd in an intimate setting — but maybe it’s the play. Maybe it’s both, and it all works together.
Shari Sebbens (a star in the making) storms onto the stage as Miri, or as the world is about to know her, Currah. She’s unrefined and unrepentantly so. She jumps on hotel room beds. She speaks with complete abandon and with no regard at all for grammar. She wears t-shirts and tracksuit pants and isn’t a public speaker. She is energetic, she is inexplicably captivating, and as she is slowly transformed by the public eye we begin to see the depth of Sebbens’ acting skill; she carries years of growth on the stage and it is exciting to watch.
The entire cast is of high calibre. Glenn Hazeldine is the calm before the storm personified as Anthony who, Dr. Frankenstein-like, loses control of his creation (and even has the power of his creation removed from him). Sally McKenzie knocks it out of the park as Ronnie, a spectularly world-weary publishing agent; she runs the entire three-ring circus with a beautifully weary air of having done it all before. She’s hilarious, consistently, and startlingly real. Charles Allen’s turn as the seemingly light-hearted and camp Tyrelle is somehow how the darkest character of the bunch, and it works.
The blackness of the comedy hits home in the second act. In the first, it’s delightfully twisted. The dialogue moves at a cracking pace, as Miri slips into the role of the abused Currah, creating horrors and twists in the story of her own, or when our writer insists he’s really more of an Ant than an Anthony, or when Ronnie says anything, ever, about the state of the world. This play has wit, real and sincere wit, and the performers are clever enough to carry it off. The entire package, including a minimal set with projected backdrop images, packs a real punch.
You’ll laugh. You’ll laugh a lot. And if it wasn’t worth seeing just for that (and it is) go along to celebrate the razor-sharp and impeccably pitched dialogue. A Hoax is a gem.