Review: 'Sextet' at Verb Theatre

Vicki Trask

  • OnStage Calgary Critic

I have not seen such a polarizing show with so much sexual discussion and minor nudity in quite a long time. “Sextet” has transformed the Big Secret Theatre in the Arts Commons into a cheap motel as the setting for statement-making theatre. Verb Theatre has taken on the task of introducing contemporary audiences to writer Morris Panych’s entertaining views on sexuality, gender, love, and humanity. This 90 minute plays tells the story of six musicians who are stuck together during tour where chaos infallibly ensues. He loves him but he loves her and she loves him and he loves her but she loves him and he loves himself. It presents itself as a “Three’s Company”-esque hijinks but offers moral, theological, and philosophical dilemmas in place of a zany title sequence. This is a comedy that tries to make you think but left me feeling unresolved.

Directed by Jamie Dunsdon, the six actors taking on this hefty task did a phenomenal job. We have Harry played by Paul Welch, Mavis played by Anna Cummer, Gerard played by Curt McKinstry, Dirk played by Tenaj Williams, Otto played by Stafford Perry, and Sylvia played by Lara Schmitz. I think this show was so well cast, first of all. These actors visually fit into their roles and presented ideas of how their characters acted and felt. They seemed to balance each other and worked well as an ensemble. Sincerely, the actors did a fantastic job of executing direction and text in an entertaining and captivating manner.

The reason I felt unresolved was due entirely to the script. I couldn’t decide if the playwright was trying to preach multiple philosophies without coming to any conclusion or really saying anything, or he simply couldn’t settle on a single idea. I liked the various subplots on paper but their execution seemed unfinished.

As I said, the actors were wonderful, director Jamie Dunsdon created a great visual narrative, and the concept of the story is just looking for an audience to keel over with laughter. I suppose the text just didn’t hit the right chord with me.

Photo: The cast of Verb Theatre's Sextet: Paul Welch and Lara Schmitz plus the limbs of Curt McKinstry, Tenaj Williams, Stafford Perry, and Anna Cummer. TIM NGUYEN