The heart has its reasons of which reason knows not

Relationships, specifically ends of relationships, are never clear-cut. They are messy, painful, often denied, and, in Plan B’s case, funny.

Alberta Theatre Project’s season opener deals with two relationships: those between human beings and between Canada and Quebec. In the distant future, Quebec has finally voted in favour of separating and the play follows the resulting negotiations.

Canada is represented by federal Finance Minister Michael Fraser (writer Michael Healey) and Senator Colin Patterson (A Christmas Carol’s Stephen Hair). Quebec has Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Lise Frechette (Jennifer Morehouse) and Premier Ministre Mathieu Lapointe (Joey Tremblay).

Lise is "antsy" and Michael "bored," so naturally the characters progress not to a relationship, but to coital fury. However, it turns out their negotiations are just for show. When the Americans want to provide stability, they quickly morph to the real deal.

Overall, a bubble of absurdity envelops the play, it’s hard to pick out the funniest scene because the whole situation is bizarre. For instance, Michael likes to watch TV in his hotel room sans pantalons making everyone around him nervous. In the name of negotiations, Michael asks Mathieu to remove his pants so they can share some common ground and watch the tube. The scene is funny, combining both political satire and slapstick comedy, which describes every scene.

All four actors are superb at bringing their characters to life, however major praise is due to Stephen Hair. His crusty senator could have been played easily as the redneck from the West, but the scenes where Patterson wonders what went wrong, the audience can identify. We may act like we wouldn’t care if Quebec left, but at night, we realize we would change, and not for the best. When we see him the next day, he’s still swearing up a storm, but we can see underneath how much he wants Quebec to stay.

Much credit is due to writer/actor Healey for penning a play funny on so many different levels while deftly adding relationship themes without shoehorning them in. Healey, who looks like Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier’s older brother, uses both relationships to examine each other.

Lise and Michael’s romances represent the two solitudes–Quebec must look at Canada in the same way Lise looks at Michael’s clumsy overtures. What could he offer her? But at the same time, Canada and Quebec began out of convenience like Lise and Michael, the relationship was not based on trust or intimacy but the fact Canada was not the United States. It was just easier for Quebec to join Canada.

In the end, Plan B conveys all the pain and hope involved when a relationship is doomed. However, it is not Lise and Michael’s relationship we are saddened to watch but the affair between Canada and Quebec, and there is nothing the participants can do to stop it.

Plan B runs through Sept. 27 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. For tickets or information call 294-7402.

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