By Jael Wong
What is true beauty? What is ugliness? These are the questions Mob Hit Productions tackles in its production of The Ugly Man, playing at The Pumphouse Theatres though Sat., Apr. 10. Working from a script by Alberta playwright Brad Fraser and directed by Larissa Innes, Mob Hit’s take on the play is a saucy revenge-tragedy played with irony and double entendres.
The story takes place on a seemingly idyllic ranch. The owner’s daughter, the beautiful Veronica, is engaged to the devoted but dull Acker, but she is actually attracted to Cole, whom she believes to be as beautiful as herself. Caught in this dilemma she enlists the help of Forrest, the ugly, disfigured farm hand, to get rid of her fiance. He does so, and sets in motion a series of events sending the characters on a downward spiral.
As the play progresses, the faÃ§ade of perfection slowly crumbles as each character’s depravity surfaces. It becomes apparent the "ugly man" of the title may not refer to simply one character.
The production features a delightful performance from Sara Corrigall, whose pale-faced, doe-eyed portrayal of Veronica is the very picture of supposed innocence. Len Harvey plays the burly and mysterious Forrest, and the way he deadpans much of his lines effectively communicates a character who cares little for social trivialities. As a result, Forrest’s dialogues with the other characters account for much of the humour of the play. Moni Janssen, as the matriarch Ms. Sabina, delivers her lines in a cool and deliberate manner suited to a strong woman running an estate.
Housed in the Joyce Doolittle Theatre at Pumphouse Theatres the production makes use of a single, multifunctional set, which thanks to clever lighting and set design, serves as several locations, sometimes two at once. The theatre itself is small, creating an intimate setting bringing the audience closer to the actio, if you are in the front row, you are literally inches from the action. This is all good, because The Ugly Man is certainly a play that gets in your face. It gets under your skin. It makes you ask yourself about your own conceptions of beauty.