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'Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome' by Jane Cooper Ford WORLD PREMIERE

Presented by HERE FOR NOW THEATRE at on the grounds of the Stratford-Perth Museum, 4275 LINE 34, Stratford, ON.

Presented by HERE FOR NOW THEATRE at on the grounds of the Stratford-Perth Museum, 4275 LINE 34, Stratford, ON.

Joe Szekeres

NOTE: I attended the Saturday, June 22 matinee performance, which was moved indoors due to the heat warning outside. There were no lighting cues but a few sound cues. I’m unsure if others were missing.

“Coyly suggestive script.” “Smartly directed by Megan Watson with nifty performances.”

In the Programme Note for Stratford Festival’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ director Seana McKenna writes she rarely reads Director’s Notes before she sees a play. She wants to see ‘the thing itself’ without any preparation for it. She wants to receive the play as it unfolds without any preconceptions of what it might be.

I wanted to do the same with this world premiere of ‘Paul and Linda.’ Even though I had a possible preconception of what it might entail (and I’m sure the same thing went through everyone’s mind), I did not want to know anything else. I told my guest to remove the programme from my hands or gently tap my wrists if she saw me looking at any notes inside.

What did I already know about playwright Jane Cooper Ford’s world premiere of ‘Paul & Linda Plan a Threesome’? It received a workshop production at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times in 2015.

We find ourselves in the upscale living room of Paul (David Keeley) and Linda (Laura de Carteret). They’re an affluent couple who enjoy a good life, and Rebecca Chaikin’s set and costume choices appropriately indicate that. Keeley sports a comfortable-looking aqua blue dress shirt with rolled sleeves, Khaki pants, and dress/casual shoes. De Carteret wears a nice-looking dress and appropriate shoes. The living room setting is tastefully decorated in a minimal style. A matching loveseat and chair in ivory-looking fabric are centre-staged. Both furniture pieces are slightly angled. In front of the loveseat is a circular coffee table with a charcuterie board. There are also four drink coasters.

The hilarious plot twist behind this idyllic look?

Paul and Linda’s marriage is in trouble. To salvage their relationship, Linda invites the eccentric Sienna (Shannon Taylor) as part of a threesome to save the marriage. Linda is open-minded about this possible menage à trois. One of the most noteworthy elements of Taylor as the interloper are her eyes. As she listens intently to responses in conversation, her eyes become quite hypnotic. Initially, Paul hesitates but appears to give his consent to this ‘arrangement’. The arrival of Paul’s sister, Gwen (Stacy Smith), then completely changes the dynamics; however, will Paul and Linda see their choice through with Sienna? Will Gwen somehow be involved as well?

Megan Watson directs Jane Cooper Ford’s smartly crafted script with a coy wink and a smile. Watson knows there's more here. There are some wonderfully funny jokes – the one about the golf shirt still makes me smile. Watson keeps the play’s pacing moving along where it doesn’t feel dragging.

The at-times hilarious, back-and-forth banter begins to unravel secrets upon secrets. This fine ensemble finds genuine human reactions and behaviour underneath the characters' choices. Are these choices flaws? Are they signs of something else the characters don’t realize about themselves yet?

Shannon Taylor is delightful as the eccentric Sienna. Her makeup is perfect, almost too perfect. It looks as if perhaps she is not of this world. One captivating element of Taylor are her eyes. As she listens intently to responses in conversation, her eyes become quite hypnotic. Sienna wears a white dress with a unique design on her coat. She knows her identity. She seems to have this innate sixth sense and isn’t afraid to share what she knows with Paul, Linda and Gwen.

Taylor’s Sienna can size something up in seconds and respond immediately or wait until the appropriate moment. She immediately senses that Paul and Linda are trying to save their marriage and asks them point-blank questions. Sienna has also sized Gwen up to ask questions that might seem as if they are nobody’s business.

Stacy Smith bursts on the scene as Gwen. She’s robust and lively. The moment she initially realizes what her brother and sister-in-law have been contemplating with Sienna is quite amusing. However, Sienna’s involvement with Gwen deserves closer examination, which I’ll speak of shortly.

Laura de Carteret and David Keeley are realistic and believable as the troubled Linda and Paul. Their blocking throughout the approximate 70-minute running time resembles an interesting and shifting dance between the two. It is fascinating to see how each one holds power and control at any given moment.

Paul and Linda might appear to have it all together when they don’t, and Sienna ultimately makes that reality apparent to them. Is that perhaps why Paul appears to be thinking about giving his consent to this ‘arrangement’? Has he become hypnotized by Sienna’s seductive eyes? Hmmm…

And Another Thought: The Programme bills this 2024 season under the theme: ‘Season of Self-Acceptance.’
Hmmm…this theme gets me thinking further about Ford’s script.

Is it appropriate that ‘Paul and Linda’ opens Here for Now’s summer season?

Near the end, the topic of love is raised as a point of conversation. What does it mean to love? All that matters is the love. Did you love? Were you loved?

Well, in this uber-permissive twenty-first society of sexual behaviour, dubious mores and 'Pride' bandwagon,’ the connotation of the word ‘love’ takes on a different meaning for different people.

From this logic, the same exists for the term ‘threesome’ which takes on a different meaning. And why can’t it?

Or is the play a social and comical comment on this uber-permissive society in which we now live?

Or is it a social and comical commentary on the logic?

It's all of these combined. Using 'woke' logic, 'Paul and Linda' becomes a social and comical commentary on the uber-permissive society in which we now live.

To refer back to the question, yes, the choice to open the season with ‘Paul and Linda’ appears appropriate.
The ‘woke’ world we live in constantly takes words and adjusts new meanings and connotations, regardless of whether we want that to happen.

Without spoiling the plot for future audiences, ‘threesome’ means something entirely different in Ford’s play. Even Megan Watson says in her Director’s Note that working on this wild play has been layered, and the premise leads to unexpected places. Yes, I did read the programme eventually.

This premise certainly raised my eyebrows, but it’s clever.

Running time: approximately 70 minutes with no interval.

‘Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome’ runs until July 13 on the grounds of the Stratford-Perth Museum, 4275 LINE 34, Stratford, ON. For tickets, visit www.herefornowtheatre.com.

HERE FOR NOW presents the World Premiere of
‘Paul and Linda Plan a Threesome’ by Jane Cooper Ford
Directed by Megan Watson
Set and Costume Designer: Rebecca Chaikin
Stage Manager: Sam Snyders

Performers: Laura de Carteret, David Keeley, Stacy Smith, Shannon Taylor

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