By Sharman Yarnell –mtltimes.ca
If “insults are the Italian way of showing affection”, then Vittorio Rossi has much affection for the Canadian film industry.
The Envelope, by Rossi, is a diatribe against the industry, and the powers that be who control the purse strings, suggesting the ‘envelope’ is offered with a contract, money and… conditions. The film is shot and then basically disappears into a void.
In Rossi’s play, the playwright, (Michael Moretti) wants his play, Romeo’s Rise, turned into a movie. He must choose between a low budget American producer who would be compliant to the creative requests of the writer, or a hell of a lot more money from the Canadian funded production but…with a hell of a lot of conditions. Does he go for the quality, artistic freedom and keep his friends? Or does he grab the money and lose control of the project?
The cast in the play is what really sells the production. It is a tight, well balanced ensemble.
Ron Lea, as Moretti, is steady, calm, and delivers his usual insightful performance. You can see his character thinking, sussing out the situation, as the play progresses.
Shawn Campbell is downright brilliant as Andrew Morgan. He has created a full blown, enjoyable character, egotistical, yet with depth. He also delivers some of the best lines – often comic, and often truthful when he refers to the play within the play.
David Gow plays producer Jake Henry Smith, an ingratiating, fawning character. Gow out ‘smarms’ the smarmiest. He urges Michael, pleads with Michael, to take the Canadian offer (he naturally has much to gain financially by this). Gow, along with Campbell, gives a lift to the action whenever he is on stage
This is Leni Parker at her best. As Sarah MacKenzie, she evolves from what first appears as a very self-assured servant of the Canadian film industry, delivering facts to Michael and Jake, to a very different character, revealing a cornucopia of emotions and her raison d’etre within.
Tony Calabretta, as Franco Maldini, delivers another of those performances that an audience waits for – he is bang on as the owner of the local Italian restaurant.
Guido Cocomello, as Marcello Maldini, while a strong presence, starts off the play with the same energy as the end and has no build. There is little development or change in him as the play proceeds. Thus, his final scene is somewhat lost. Melanie Sirois, as Caroline Lemay, Maldini’s love interest, needs a bit more to work on and to work with.
The action takes place on one set – the restaurant – a set artfully designed by Evita Karasek and well put to use by the actors. Not an inch of space is wasted.
The Envelope might best be understood by those in the film industry and appreciated by those who have been attempting to get money to produce a Canadian film. The script is long and the action on stage sometimes slow paced.
However, the characters in the play demand your attention and Rossi has some wonderful one liners that will leave you feeling good – and a plot line that will leave you thinking.
The Envelope is on at the Centaur Theatre until April 19.
For more info: http://www.centaurtheatre.com
Box Office: 514 – 288 – 3161