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Teen pregnancy drama proves tough but compelling

Owl and Pussycat fails to soar in outdated male fantasy

Tough!

At Studio 1398 until Sept. 3

Tickets: 604.684.2787

ticketstonight.ca

It doesnt get much tougher than being 19, pregnant and doomed to collecting welfare and living in a shitty place. When the father of the baby is a diseased, brain-damaged sewer rat (what Tina calls Bobby in a screaming tirade), she cant look for much help from him, either.

Appropriately, we meet school dropouts Tina and Bobby in a playground because, expectant parents or not, they are children. Three months pregnant, Tina will have to grow upand fastbut can Bobby make the transition from child to man in the next six months?

This is tough material extremely well directed by Tamara McCarthy for Twenty-Something Theatre, a company committed to presenting plays that are relevant to that age group. Its not Canadian playwright George F. Walkers best play, but it feels real. And because of that its sometimes tough to watch.

Timothy Johnstons Bobby is a mass of nerves. He shakes, slaps his head and sobs uncontrollably. We alternateas does Tinabetween wanting to give him a hug or a kick him in the butt. No question that Jill, Tinas best friend, wants to beat the crap out of Bobby. She has, unaccountably, hated him since kindergarten. With long strides, index fingers pointed and a wicked glare, Katherine Gauthiers Jill is downright scary. As Tina, Marlene Ginader is soft, conflicted, hurt and angry, but shows just enough of Tinas strength to lead us to believe she will make it somehow.

Craig Alfredsons seta swing set and wooden climbing structureis effective. Sound design by Kevin McClardy puts the action in a heavy traffic, urban setting.

Tough! is 90 uninterrupted minutes of compelling drama thats even more relevant to under-20s who are sexually active or soon to be. The language is rough, but its a cautionary tale that may do more good than middle or secondary school sex ed.

The Owl and The Pussycat

At Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) until Sept. 3

Tickets: 604-684-8026

brownpapertickets.com

Confession time. I have a strong bias against male fantasy plays. You know, where a down-on-her-luck hooker invades the apartment of a lonely, nerdy guy and, guess what? They fall in love and, along the way, become self-aware.

That, in a nutshell, is The Owl and The Pussycat. Ryan Hesp is Felix, a clerk in a bookstore who fancies himself a writer but isnt, he claims, interested in publication. Hmm. Panthea Vatandoos is Doris, a hooker who says shes a model and an actress who only sleeps with men to whom she has been properly introduced. Hmm again.

With his binoculars, self-righteous Felix has spied Doris carrying on her trade in the apartment next door. He reports her activity to that buildings manager who throws her out in the middle of the night. Certain its Felix who finked on her, she weasels her way into his apartment and into his life.

A lot of hard work has gone into this CheckPoint Theatre production, directed by John R. Taylor. And there was a late-in-the-rehearsal-period change in the male leadalways a challenge.

But theyre working with a script that is one of those stop and go affairs. Felix and Doris fight; they make up. They fight again. They make up again. The making up, of course, is in the bedroom until the final fight after which, we are supposed to assume, they live happily ever after. Written in 1964 by Bill Manhoff, The Owl and The Pussycat featured Alan Alda and Diana Sands and ran on Broadway for a year. In 1970, it came out as a film starring Barbra Streisand and George Segal. But it feels much older and falls short of Educating Rita and Irma La Douce, both of which deal with somewhat similar themes.

JL

joled@telus.net