As classes start back up again, so does the theatre season. The MainLine Theatre on St. Laurent has a great start to the year with Wendy MacLeod’s controversial The House of Yes – which you might know due to its film adaptation starring Parker Posey and a young Freddie Prinze Jr.. Last weekend, Montreal-based non-profit student-run theatre troupe Last One Standing Productions took on MacLeod’s play, offering an interesting exploration of the obsession with John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination and taboo sexual relations.
MainLine Theatre itself, which you probably have walked by millions of times without noticing, is half-hidden – its slick black door only stands out due to the spray-painted flames that frame it. Once you step over the threshold, you are invited to climb an endless staircase that leads you into a cozy hodge-podge of a space; an environment that only adds to the excitement of watching an alternative play.
A very obscure play that translated into a pretty indie movie, The House of Yes tells the story of an incestuous twin couple that has an obsession with the Kennedy assassination. The play begins with prodigal son Marty’s (Adam Bernett) return to his childhood home, accompanied by his fiancée. The arrival of the couple pushes twin sister Jackie O (Jordana Lajoie) over the edge and brings back Marty’s childhood desires for his sibling – which, for some reason, involved a ritual recreation of the Kennedy assassination as foreplay. In other words, it’s far from the story of your typical white-bread American family. After all, the play raises a number of interesting points on human nature and humankind’s fascination for taboo subjects such as murder and sex.
Last One Standing’s adaptation of the play, a challenging feat thanks to the thorny issues involved, was successful for an array of reasons. The cast, which consisted of five young actors, did a fine job interpreting the play’s deranged character. Lajoie’s Jackie O and her mom, Madame Pascale (Chantale Demole), were particularly skilled at navigating the interplay of light and dark moments. Lajoie’s tone and inflection in particular were hard-hitting, managing to communicate a lot of tension with seemingly little effort.
The set – which includes window frames around the stage, making the audience feel as if they are peering through the family’s house’s windows – was innovative and added to the voyeuristic feel of the play. Finally, the general mood jumped from humorous to tragic in a remarkably fast-paced fashion, maintaining the audience’s engagement throughout – one of the crucial details which distinguish this play.
Last One Standing Productions describes itself on its Facebook page as constituted of ‘storytellers’ who are dedicated to their craft and wish to give new artists opportunities to express themselves creatively. This nascent theatre troupe still has a lot to accomplish, but their choice to start off with such an edgy play as The House of Yes certainly sets them apart as boundary-pushing and thought-provoking storytellers.