Novelist and playwright J.B. Priestley’s first ever play, Dangerous Corner, is billed at the OLT as a psychological thriller. It’s a night of revelations as friends gather and reminisce about a tragedy from a year ago, where not everything is as it seems.
Should you see it?
Time and truth, major themes that shaped Dangerous Corner when it was written in 1932. Time and truth were also the biggest obstacles in the Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of Dangerous Corner, as the play felt extraordinarily dated and nothing felt very honest.
Dangerous Corner brings the British upper crust together to have a night of drinking and fun. The topic of their old friend Martin, who died one year ago on a tragic night, comes under scrutiny for the first time since the police investigation.
The title of the play, Dangerous Corner, refers to a moment when the characters choose to turn a conversational corner and open themselves up to possible revelations that they did not necessarily want or need to know. To Priestley, this was a philosophical idea, that the truth has many sides and perhaps we are not meant to know all those many sides.
Indeed, as the night goes on it seems that every character has their own truth, especially about the night when Martin died. His suicide was never questioned, but as they each share their perspective, they are not so certain what the truth really is.
As the play opens, the main characters are part of a “snug little group” of colleagues and friends who have shared a long history together. On stage, that was hard to believe. There was little chemistry that indicated any of the players had ever met each other before. It was laborious to keep track of who was family, friends, or lovers as they interacted with indifference to one another.
As Freda and Robert Caplan, Venetia Lawless and Dale MacEachern were most engaging on stage, perhaps because they were the most over the top. In balancing the British stiff upper lip, against hysterical outbursts, these two actors found a way to bring a memorable cynicism to their characters.
The set design by Tim Ginley was well done, even with a few eyesores. Costumes by Liane Racette were a disappointment. While the men were in perfectly acceptable tuxedos the women’s costumes were distractingly incoherent to the play’s setting. Certainly, this was a missed opportunity for some 1930’s glamour.
Ultimately, director Geoff Gruson’s production of Dangerous Corner fails because of it’s total lack of irony. While billed as a “stylish psychological thriller,” in 2015 this production is more absurdist theatre than it is a thriller. With such heavy melodrama, combined with the cliche setting, and shallow characters, it was difficult to discern whether the shocking revelations were intended to be jokes or not. Either way, the audience was laughing.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. Did Dangerous Corner keep you guessing? Were you engaged by the melodrama or did it seem over the top? Join the discussion and tell me what you think in the comments below.
Dangerous Corner runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre until June 27th.