By James Karas
The Trouble with Mr. Adams is a new play by Gord Rand that examines the relationship between a high school teacher and volleyball coach, and his star player, a pretty (almost) sixteen-year old girl.
There is plenty of material for a play in that situation and Rand attacks it head on but with limited success.
The 45-year old Mr. Adams (a passionate Chris Earle), feels that Cupid’s arrow has struck him and he has fallen in love with Mercedes (Sydney Owchar). Those are his words. Mr. Adams does have a few issues that should cause him to yank the arrow out of his heart, to wit: he is married, has two children, he is in a position of trust vis-à-vis the object of his passion, and the Board of Education, the Criminal Code, her parents and society in general, may, to put it very politely, take a dim view of his actions.
Sydney Owchar and Chris Earle. Photo: Cylla vo Tiedemann
None of which register on the self-righteous, blind (by love?) and perhaps fundamentally stupid Mr. Adams. After spending three hours with Mercedes in his car during a snowstorm (she missed the bus after a tournament) he announces to his wife Peggy (Philippa Domville) that he is leaving her.
That is the first of the three confrontations in the play. His wife is furious and demands to know what happened during those three hours in the car and his answer is: nothing. The argument takes a strange turn when Peggy seduces him into a rather graphic sex act which I guess is supposed to convince him that what he has at home is damn good and it is not worth being branded a pedophile. Perhaps but Mr. Adams is adamant.
The next confrontation is with Barbara (Allegra Fulton), the union’s tough lawyer who is also sexually attractive. She takes a prosecutorial attitude and he acts like a juvenile until he finally gets the message that the only way he can save his neck is by blackening Mercedes. Paint her as a tart and put a saintly tint on yourself. We are not sure how well the approach works because in the next scene, two years later, we find Mr. Adams teaching part time in St. Catharines, living in a basement apartment and not permitted to coach a girls’ team. Sounds like a split decision at discipline committee level without criminal prosecution.
In the final scene Mercedes, who is now 18 years old, and Mr. Adams meet in a motel room where she is staying during a tournament. He still has idiotic ideas about living with her and dreams of promoting her career as a volleyball player. She stays for too long talking with him and finally leaves to bring the play to an end.
Philippa Domville and Chris Earle. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
I have given a summary of the plot to point out the dramatic possibilities and some of the creaky aspects of the plot. Rand does not find enough substance in the relationship or in the characters to make for a satisfying drama. Whatever Mercedes’s attraction to her teacher, it is all too easy to file it, if not dismiss it, as a teenage crush or puppy love, if you will.
Mr. Adams, however hard he tries to take the high ground by invoking the intervention of Fate through the offices of Cupid, comes out as no more than a horny, middle aged man who breaks the rules rather stupidly. Rand failed to find substance to create a convincing, fully-rounded if flawed human who attracts and repels us.
The performances within the confines of the play are very good. Philippa Domvilles’ furious and hurt wife comes through; Fulton’s Allegra is officious and finally helpful in suggesting how Mr. Adams can approach his problem; Owcher is good as the undeveloped character of Mercedes. She has outgrown Adams but she is still somewhat confused. We do not see her as the sixteen-year old who “fell in love” with her coach but Owcher’s performance cannot be faulted for that. Earle is full of passionate intensity like a teenager who has just discovered love but not common sense.
The same applies to Director Lisa Peterson who puts the best face on a flawed play.
The Trouble with Mr. Adams by Gord Rand runs until November 29, 2015 at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario. www.tarragontheatre.com