In the same week that Gravy Bath Productions, one of the few English-language theatre troupes in Montreal, decided to call it quits Peccadilloes, written by Jon Rannells, opened up with performers from the Whip Theatre. Jon Rannells is from Toronto…does this mean that we will now have to import English theatre from there….Toronto, I mean. Oh, the horror! Mercifully, the Whip Theatre troupe is from Montreal. On this production they consist of seven actors, Leif Anderson, Stephanie Breton, Trevor Hayes, Dan Jeannotte, Neil Kroetsch, Alison Louder, and Kent McQuaid. The name The Whip Theatre evolved from W.I.P., for 'Work in Progress', and on the night I went to see them perform the name was fitting.
Peccadilloes was billed as a series of eight one-act plays which focused on unexpected moments and the human condition. These two tags were not false, but I don't think they ended up applying the way the writer/director/actors meant them to. Each of the eight one-acts was 5 minutes or under so there was no chance of falling asleep or drifting in and out. There was no 'excess' with any of them as all the 'fat' had been trimmed off. They were all streamlined and cut to the chase with the desired effect of being riveting. Sometimes they were effective and sometimes not. One of the goals of the one-acts was to show human beings warts and all. It was to give you an insight into the sins and wrongdoings committed by humans. Most of the darkness in one-acts is done with a dash of comedy and most of the time the comedy was good, but sometimes it felt a little forced, as if they were trying too hard.
Even though the eight were written by the same person they were quite uneven. For instance, "Kiss Me My Stomach Hurts" with Stephanie Breton and Dan Jeannotte, "Henry" with Neil Kroetsch and Alison Louder, and "Background Players" with Dan Jeannotte and Neil Kroetsch were all quite good with the others being a little weaker. The weakness was not due to the acting as each of the performers did what they could with the material, but some of the vignettes were just not as interesting as the others. I could not find a point or a message is several of them and this caused me not to be involved in what was going on on stage or the characters. Particular attention should be paid to the performances of Dan Jeannotte and Neil Kroetsch. Both gave two interesting and nuanced performances. Especially, Neil Kroetsch, who as the eldest of the performers, was someone who you could not keep your eyes off of.
Overall, it was an interesting evening of seemingly ever-dwindling English theatre. Peccadilloes is served to us in a very palatable format: short one-acts, which are fast-paced and darkly comedic, but some of them fare worse off than others. It is very much a night at the theatre that mimiced actual life in that there are ups and downs and you can never really predict what will happen next.