BWW Review: Soulpepper's PICTURE THIS is a Weird, Wacky, Whimsical Farce
Just when you think you've run out of laughter, PICTURE THIS demands more. Written by Morris Panych and Brenda Robins, Soulpepper's PICTURE THIS is a heap of slapstick, comedic gold wrapped in the packaging of Ken MacDonald's gorgeous, intelligent set. Inspired by Melchior Lengyel's The Battle of Waterloo, PICTURE THIS captures the virile hunger of the struggling artist and presents it in a way that is enormously funny.
Set in Budapest, in the silent film era, against a failing Hungarian film industry - a sea of eager artists hunt for their next big break. When the head of the most successful film studio in the world arrives in Budapest, that hunger peaks. Opportunity and possibility inspires madness in the ensemble of characters - all vying for a chance to fulfill their dreams.
Panych's direction incorporates the physical aspects of silent comedy from the Chaplin-era. In one moment, the entire ensemble clump together, moving in slow motion before exploding into an elaborately choreographed sequence of organized chaos. Fight director Casey Hudecki must have been busy.
The busyness fills every corner of MacDonald's beautiful, eccentric stage design. Vibrant cerulean walls in the first act, frame a pineapple-centric design - a nod to a Wes Anderson aesthetic. The versatile set completely transforms during intermission. It is fascinating to sit and watch.
Michelle Monteith is an absolute darling as Milli, making me snort with laughter after one of her flawlessly executed lines. (Not funny out of context, you'll have to go experience it yourself.) David Storch is wonderfully funny as Mr. Brown - a clumsy, lovable, Mr.Bean-esque character. Tasked with the difficult job of portraying the very human, "serious character", Jordan Pettle earns sympathy as Romberg - the nervous, Hungarian film producer. The entire ensemble is responsible for most of the play's humourous gags - being forced to run, leap and enter under various extreme emotional states.
If you need a good laugh, go see PICTURE THIS. The comedy lags during the second act, as plot lines are tied up and stakes are dealt with - but waiting for the last fifteen minutes is wholly worth it. Be prepared for ridiculous, foolish fun.
PICTURE THIS is presented by Soulpepper and runs through October 7th, 2017 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Distillery Historic District, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://soulpepper.ca/performances/picture-this/4080 or call the box office at 1-888-898-1188
Approximate running time: 2 hrs & 10 mins, including one 20 minute intermission
(main photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)