While The North Plan has all the bones of a caper gone wrong, it feels like a prelude rather than the main event.
The North Plan pits a shadowy provisional government against Cartlon Berg (Daniel Martin), a mid-level government employee, who lands himself in a small-town jail cell after attempting to liberate a list of people who will be rounded up and sent to prison camps under the new regime. His attempts to negotiate with by-the-book Shonda (Catherine Lough Haggquist) and foulmouthed Tanya (Genevieve Fleming) result in a fiery final showdown worth the price of admission.
Upintheair is known for using non-traditional theatre spaces for their work and The North Plan continues that path by staging the show in a recently renovated Chinatown basement. Concrete and fluorescents cast an eerie shadow on the production which at time lends to it’s authenticity, but also underscores the static staging. This play is on a slow burn that sparks in the first half, but really ignites in the second.
A few of those sparks are in the performances. The North Plan is a tightly written drama where conflicting dialogue is layered in a dissonant counterpoint that allows one actor to dump information on the audience while another drops f-bombs. Martin is suitably desperate as Berg and Haggquist puts in an appreciably nuanced performance as Shonda, but it is Fleming’s Tanya who draws the eye. Clad in bedazzled jeans and a camouflage cap, Fleming saunters into the second act with the hilarious ineptitude belonging to a classic comedy of errors. Her penultimate scene with the two agents – a menacing Allen Morrison and a sympathetic David Mott – is a tightly scripted comedic master class that left a sleepy matinee audience in stitches.
The North Plan has all the components of an entertaining adventure film that never leaves the first location. The result is a show that feels like a beginning – a very good, very funny beginning. Which may be precisely the speculative ending Wells is going for. Go and imagine what happens next.
The North Plan by Jason Wells. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. An Upintheair Theatre production. On stage at the at an underground location near 211 East Georgia, Vancouver until November 29. Visit http://www.upintheairtheatre.com for tickets and information.