Local theatergoers aren’t likely to see Brad Fraser’s True Love Lies on other professional stages in the area. As with Fraser’s earlier Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (which received a local community theater production at the defunct QE2 on Central Avenue more than 20 years ago), this Canadian playwright’s wordplay, his manipulation of characters and themes, and his love of love in all its manifestations demand tolerance and, for want of a more apt term for Fraser’s plays, ballsiness. Plumbing a more upper-class milieu than Unidentified’s grungy, 30-something group of friends in late 1980s Edmonton, Alberta, Fraser fries present-day Edmonton baby boomers and their millennial offspring in True Love Lies. It’s not a play for typical regional theater subscribers or for the fainthearted, or for those who like their theater tidy with a sprightly twist or two; True Love Liesis full of loose ends and unanswered questions.
“Lebowski, whose daughter joined that sperm cult?” nerdy teen outcast Royce Sawatsky (Samuel Hoeksema) asks his parents, the professional and still-frisky Carolyn (Molly Parker-Myers) and Kane (Steven Patterson) Sawatsky. “Who is David McMillan?” Royce asks as Carolyn is visibly agitated and Kane aroused when their 21-year-old daughter Madison (Anna Chazelle) pouts about her unsuccessful interview for a waitress job at McMillan’s soon-to-open restaurant. “Why did he blow me off” Madison asks, curious at her parents’ and McMillan’s reactions. “Was he a ‘good friend’?” Royce sneers at his father after he reveals a long-ago friendship with McMillan. “You had a gay friend?!” Kane’s children scream. “You were a fudge-packer?” Royce soon blurts out, and the overlapping first scene closes. Questions form an engaging spine to True Love Lies, supplying more information than the answers, and when the questions flow, the play hums.
The four actors of the Sawatsky family create engaging variations on the TV sitcom families of years long past, brought up to date with their father’s gay past, their mother’s role as a home-wrecker of Kane and David’s happy relationship, their eldest daughter’s nymphomania—“I have this thing where I have to fuck every guy I meet,” Madison declares—and their youngest child’s depression/asexuality/suicide ideation. The only things the Sawatsky family really share are questions, DNA and homophobia. Dr. Phil would lose his twang trying to handle all the Sawatskys’ issues.
Roiling at the center of the questions, and supplying too many wise “gay men have seen and know it all” answers, is David McMillan (suavely played by Kevin Craig West); he out-advices Dan Savage even when he’s screwing Madison from behind and whispering her father’s name into her ear.
Usually more brutally funny than crude, True Love Lies features two characters from Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love—David and Kane—20-odd years later, and while they don’t pick up where they left off, the questions asked leading up to the play’s too-tidy ending make for an engaging and unique evening of theater. True Love Lies is worth a look, and it’s a good follow-up to director John Sowle and Kaliyuga Arts’ The Mound Builders of last season. See it now, because based on past events, it won’t be playing around here again any time soon.