There’s A Lot of Truth in True Love Lies

david w. keeley and susanna fournier
These days Brad Fraser’s reputation in the Canadian Theatre Community usually precedes him; and this is especially the case here at The Way I See It. Brad Fraser is brave and controversial, he is open about his opinions and he is refusing to allow Canadian Theatre to remain stagnant or to become merely adequate. He is also a master at writing dialogue. The latter is particularly evident in the North American Premiere of his newest play True Love Lies currently playing at Factory Theatre until November 1st.
True Love Lies is a play where boundaries are continually crossed. Fraser takes two seemingly ordinary experiences, a husband and his wife raising their children, and a relationship between two men coming to an end, and asks, “What would happen if these two worlds collided?” And thus, we are introduced to Kane, a middle-aged man in a seemingly typical marriage to his wife, Carolyn, and their two almost-adult children, Madison and Royce. We are also introduced to Kane’s ex-boyfriend David. The play explores the complex, overlapping relationships that emerge between all these characters as truths are revealed, secrets are kept, and the lines between love, true love, lust and sex become blurry and elusive.
What is a young girl’s relationship to the man who once fucked her father? How about if he is also her boss? What happens if he is “gay” and she is “straight” yet she finds herself oddly attracted to him? What is a woman’s relationship to her husband’s ex boyfriend? How does a son relate to his father when he discovers that he once had a relationship with a man who has done porn and whose naked body is easily Googled across the World Wide Web? Fraser continues to return to the word “love.” David tells Madison that all marriages have expiration dates, and that people only tell themselves of love’s ability to last “forever” because otherwise it does not seem real. What is “real” love? Carolyn devalues Kane’s relationship with David as not having been “real” because it does not fit into the normative heterosexual lifestyle that Kane has come to adopt. Madison has a beautifully naïve, utterly heartfelt, moment with David where she says, “they’re your family, you’re supposed to love them forever.” Can we and do we, what happens if we don’t and what happens when we do; these questions all tumble around in Fraser’s play exposing how weird and complicated love actually is.
For me, the most remarkable feat of this play is the striking realism that it evokes. This is in part due to Fraser’s brilliant gift for writing dialogue that always sounds as though it were transcribed from a conversation he overheard on the subway and then injected with slightly more immediacy. Yet, the five actors involved in this production are equally skillful in their ability to create beautiful, nuanced, often wordless relationships with one another, which makes the dialogue the perfect piece to the dramatic puzzle.
Ashley Wright and Julie Stewart are really married as Kane and Carolyn, they are not pretend Soap Opera married, or even “Honey, I’m home!” Everybody Loves Raymond married, they have a marriage; a partnership with its own quirky shorthand and its own sense of comfort and compromise. They are also parents in the same way, a mom and a dad who obviously love their children and who are struggling with the new boundaries that have emerged since Madison and Royce have grown up. It could be argued that Fraser’s characters still adhere to certain contemporary stereotypes. Madison is the token twenty-two year old whore who seems to have an apathetic relationship with the world, while Royce is the outcast who bottles his emotions and festers like a bubbling volcano. Yet, in both the performances and these characters’ interactions, even Madison and Royce seem to rise beyond society’s labels and to tell their own unique stories.
I found Andrew Craig’s performance as Royce to be especially captivating because despite his nonchalant exterior and a particularly fantastic sheepish physicality and shifty eyes, it was obvious that Royce cared very deeply about his family and about life. It is a strong testament to Susanna Fournier that I felt compassion for Madison, as I generally am strongly adverse to the depiction of twenty-something year old girls as materialistic whores. However, Fournier kept a genuine quality to Madison that was not all caustic wit and rolling of the eyes that I really appreciated.
In all, True Love Lies examines the true nature of love in relation to one family at the moment when an old lover reappears at their door. The characters and the specific situations may seem familiar, but in this case, that allows us to question the boundaries of our own relationships and to reflect on the idea that in a world made up of these sorts of people, perhaps “true love” is, in fact, a lie.
True Love Lies plays at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street at Adelaide) until November 1st, 2009. For tickets please call 416.504.9971 or visit www.factorytheatre.ca.

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