Monday, November 30, 2015


By James Karas

Domesticated is a new play by Bruce Norris and it has received its Canadian premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It has some funny writing and interesting scenes but it is an unfinished work that needs some editing.

The plot is taken from headline news that occur all too frequently. A successful politician is caught with a prostitute. He appears on national television, his wife beside him, blurting a grovelling apology – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
 Akosua Amo-Adem, Martha Burns and Paul Gross 
Bill Pulver (Paul Gross), gynaecologist-turned-politician has been caught in a hotel room with a prostitute named Becky (Vanessa Smythe). She accidentally falls, hits her head and lapses into a coma.

We soon find out that Bill is a serial philanderer and a congenital idiot. His wife Judy (Martha Burns) is quite understandably furious with him. Her fury increase exponentially when  she finds out that he was watching pornography at work and paying one thousand to two thousand dollars per session with a prostitute for an approximate total of $75,000.00. Judy writes a book about her life and her husband.

For Bill, the situation hits bottom when Judy finds out that he had an encounter with her best friend Bobbie (Torri Higginson) in a car during which Bobbie provided only manual stimulation or, more crudely, a hand job.    

There is enough substance in the hurt, anger, humiliation, desire for revenge and possible reconciliation in the situation but Norris does unsatisfactory work with it. A young girl steps up to the microphone a few times during the performance and describes the sexual and reproductive lives of animals. It is pointless and unnecessary at best. Cut it out.

The good lines are given mostly to Judy and many of them are funny but Norris seems to run out of steam and goes searching for coals to stoke the fire.

Bill and Judy as well as Becky and her mother (Nicola Lipman) appear on a TV talk show. The host (played hilariously by Akosua Amo-Adem) is an effusive and dramatic woman who wants to hear her own voice and occasionally the voice of her guests. We get several very funny scenes thanks to Amo-Adem.

Bill is humiliated, leaves his wife and children, is unemployed, needs medical attention and has no insurance. One would think that he might have learned something about his failings as a human being, achieved a passing acquaintance with contrition and made some attempt at reconciliation with a promise of fidelity. Not so. He is so dense he cannot accept the idea of fidelity or much of anything else.

Norris is again hard put to fill the 160 minutes, including intermission, and he writes a scene in a bar with a transsexual who throws a punch at him and detaches the retina in one of his eyes.

The scenes with Bobbie are more effective partly I suppose because Higginson does such a fine job. Burns turns in a stellar performance. Gross gets very little to say in the first act but he gets better lines in the second act without his character becoming a more perceptive man.

The play uses minimal sets (designed by Nick Blais) and the scenes flow from one to the next seamlessly. A table and chairs, a bar, a set for the talk show sequence is all that is used.

Director Philp Riccio does a fine job of minimizing the creaks of the play and going for the good lines but there is only so much you can do with an unfinished play.
Domesticated by Bruce Norris continues until December 19, 2015 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ontario.  416 368 3110 

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