Trout Stanley: 'You ever seen snails make love?'

"You ever see snails make love?"

This is an important question in the world of Trout Stanley, a new play by Canadian Claudia Dey. Like the act mollusk coitus, the play is by turns absurd, hilarious, disturbing, and beautiful. 

The play takes place on the thirtieth birthday of the Ducharme twins, "never–before-married-virgins" who live on the outskirts of a small town in British Columbia. There are no twins who were ever more different, both in appearance and personality. Grace (Kelly McAndrew) is a buxom, aggressive tigress, her every move a suggestively combative dance. She is the proprietress of the town garbage dump and a billboard model for Stan's Western Gear & Shooting Range, a dichotomy that suits her well. She is also caretaker to her fragile sister Sugar (Erika Rolfsrud). Sugar is a childlike waif in her dead mothers' dirty tracksuit, as nervous as her sister is intimidating. Like Laura and her glass menagerie, she often confides her collection of ceramic animals, reading to them the more adorable passages of Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation. She has not left the house for 10 years, since the day both of her parents died.

Into their closed off, superstitious world stumbles Trout Stanley (Warren Sulatycky), a mysterious drifter who lost his own parents before he could find out why they gave him a fish name. Is he the Scrabble-champ stripper killer? A long dreamed of chance at happiness? Or just a creepy guy with a foot fetish?

The three actors in Trout Stanley face great challenges. For one, playwright Dey has her characters speaking in long, tic laden, stream-of-consciousness monologues. The sheer volume of verbage is staggering. Some of these monologues could have been shortened, but often enough keep the feeling that these three souls have held in all their strange observations about the world for as long as they can stand. Secondly, the characters could come off as merely wacky, with peculiar fixations such as Sugars' anti-squirrel hunting hunger strike, Graces' awe at the geometry of garbage, or Trouts' alleged inability to lie. Thankfully, these actors are excellent, taking their eccentricities and creating people we can love, cheer for, and fear for. In particular, Ms. Rolfsruds' vulnerable Sugar is so full of love and so painfully lovable that I found myself physically tense at the prospect of her coming to harm. She gives a beautiful, funny performance.

Director Jen Wineman keeps the small stage from being static even during the longest speeches, and seems to keep all audience views of the in-the-round stage interesting. She also keeps the tome of the show unified, with sudden dramatic moments alliding with comedic ones.

The script describes the Ducharme home as "a tidy and trinketful universe". Tim Mackabees' set design brilliantly lives up to this description, littering the stage with adolescent artifacts from the 70's and 80's: antiquated appliances, toys, books, and board games. It is a perfect visual representation of the arrested mental development of the inhabitants. Costumes by Caitlin O'Connor and Elizabeth Coleman fit the off-kilter tone, though Graces' briefly glimpsed pajamas veers too far into cartoonishness.

Trout Stanley's quirkiness is not for every one, and it's repetitived script could have been considerably shortened.  Still, if you're willing to try some Canadian gothic mythology about the nature of love (both romantic and filial), there is much to love here. It is a play that revels, but doesn't wallow, in its' own weirdness.

Photo Credit: Aaron Epstein

Top: Warren Sulatycky, Kelly McAndrew, Erika Rolfsrud

Middle: Erika Rolfsrud

Bottom: Kelly McAndrew


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From This Author Margaret Cross

Margaret Cross MARGARET CROSS was born in Ohio, raised in Florida, and currently resides in New York City, where she is a singer and actress. She is (read more...)

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