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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: In A Forest, Dark and Deep is more of the same

Vancouver’s indie theatre love-affair with the bad-boys of contemporary American theatre continues with the Naked Goddess Productions presentation of Neil Labute’s In A Forest, Dark and Deep..

Set inside an isolated cabin in the woods, Betty (Sandra Medeiros) is joined by her brother Bobby (Carlo Marks), who has been hastily enlisted to help pack up the personal effects of the man who has recently vacated the rental property. As Bobby makes his entrance with six pack in hand, his seemingly off-hand quote attributed to their father – the truth hurts – becomes the set-up for this 100 minute two-hander where a multitude of secrets, of the dark and deep kind, are revealed.

Along with LaBute’s go-to exploration of the underbelly of relationships, coupled with a treatise on the nature of truth, is an attempt at adding an additional mystery thriller layer. Much like Bobby’s early declaration about truth though, it doesn’t take long to be a couple steps ahead of the action.

While exploring controversial issues can be satisfying, in A Forest, Dark and Deep it is just more of the same from a playwright who seems to revel in trying to stir the pot. There is also little new here that the cast of Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love hadn’t already explored the week before in the exact same venue.

Medeiros and Marks find themselves trapped inside LaBute’s tightly wound characters with little room for subtlety. Marks manages to find the most believability in his character, but even he struggles against Labute’s insistence that somehow his character has the moral compass. The relationship between the two never rings quite true amidst the ever widening circle of lies.

In the tiny Havana Theatre space it shouldn’t be difficult to ensure proper sight lines, but under Tamara McCarthy’s direction the action that takes place on the floor, and much on the solitary bed in the corner of Triane Tambay’s rustic cabin set, is all but impossible to see.

Lighting and sound designers Graham Ockley and Matthew MacDonald-Bain get to play with thunder and lightning, but the strobe light placed behind the window became an odd distraction.

While one can appreciate Vancouver’s indie theatre companies taking on plays that the more mainstream companies wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, perhaps it’s time to rethink our city’s apparent obsession with LaBute, Letz, Shepard, and others of their ilk. Or at the very least, make sure you set it inside a trailer park.

In A Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute. Directed by Tamara McCarthy. A Naked Goddess Productions presentation. On stage at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until May 30. Visit for tickets and information.

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