Review: True Love Lies at The Cultch
Playwright Brad Fraser’s 2009 work, True Love Lies, received its Vancouver premiere at The Cultch last night. Characteristic of Fraser’s past plays, the dialogue is crackling and kinetic, the fast-paced opinions unapologetic and insightful, and the author’s voice unflinching – as it addressed subject matter with the potential to make audiences squirm. A new element is also present in the work, which can only be attributed to the maturation of the playwright as an artist and individual: a sense that his plays had slipped away from a world where right and wrong exist as even concepts, to one where everything is conditional. This shift has a remarkable impact on what might normally be considered the play’s final ‘resolving’ moments.
The show’s story revolves around a nuclear family: partners in business and life Kane and Carolyn, and their two children, 21-year university resistant daughter Madison, and socially awkward, self-deprecating Royce. At the onset of the play, one might be tempted to call them a happy, functional family, however as the plot progresses, Fraser quickly demonstrates that this was never really the case. The perfect facade begins to crumble when the exotic and mysterious David returns to Edmonton (both Kane and David were characters in Fraser’s early work Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, with David later appearing alone in Poor Superman), whose presence quickly becomes palpable in all their lives, increasing the momentum of each character’s already shaky trajectory.
The fast-paced story is fraught with tension and desire, wrought with guilt and the secrets we keep, and raw in its humble admission of our collective fallibility. Amidst the lightning quick exchanges, quips, and accusations, Fraser drops many truisms that will stick with audiences, including “Guilt is how adults remember they made mistakes” and “A secret is not a lie.”
Without spoiling Fraser’s fascinating narrative, what is perhaps most striking about the play is the state in which characters find themselves in its conclusion. Upsetting things happen to each of the characters, and because of this, life moving forward will no doubt be changed forever. There is no true resolution offered, as it is clear that each character is still in the middle of their personal struggle. Yet in spite of this unresolved ending, the audience is left with a comforting sense that everything is going to be alright.
This is where Fraser’s growth as an artist and individual becomes so apparent. It takes a certain wisdom to recognize and acknowledge that life is seldom about clean breaks and tidy endings, and a truly masterful writer to integrate this into a script, leaving audiences feeling settled with its conclusion. Fraser reminds us that life is about a journey, not beginnings and endings, and reassures us that – despite the many trials faced – we’re all going to be fine.
Touchstone Theatre’s presentation of Brad Fraser’s True Love Lies runs at The Cultch to October 1. For tickets, visit thecultch.com.