I have to admit I was a bit surprised when University Players announced that the highly controversial Brad Fraser play Love and Human Remains was going to be part of the 2017-18 season. It seemed like a bold move, but one I looked forward to.
Billed with warnings about nudity, graphic content, violence and coarse language, Love and Human Remains sounded like Windsor was going to be on the cutting edge of theatre, even though the play was written in 1993. Unfortunately the show didn’t seem as cutting edge as it’s being billed, although it was entertaining to watch.
Much of the actual edge from this production was lost somewhere in its creation. The seven actors were on cue and in position, but when the edginess came, it was nowhere to be found. Fraser’s original script doesn’t get much edgier – there’s graphic sex, nudity and violence throughout, as well as plenty of tension between the main players that only resulted in slight pushing and slapping on stage. The lack of sharpness surprisingly opened the way for the deeper, more emotional side of the play that can easily get lost in the noise of the edge.
Cole Reid was charismatic in the lead role as David, a gay former television star who is a bit of a player. He masterfully made his way around the various parts of the set, leading the cast through a dramatic quest for a few sexual pleasures and quick friendships which were often part of 1990s gay life. Reid made David quite loveable in this production, even though the character had a few diva-moments and a massive breakdown.
Alicia Plummer played Candy, David’s roommate and former lover. She really brought out the romance and passion in the show. We saw her struggle with deciding whether she wanted to be with bland bartender Robert (Sam Biskey) or lesbian gym friend Jerri (Taylor Brimmer). She ended up in bed for two separate love scenes, which were covered up quite well with a blanket, but the emotion and passion was hard to see or feel.
There was also 17-year-old Kane (Coleton Denomme) who followed David around like a puppy. At one point he was drunkenly lead to enigmatic Benita (Rachel Offer), a dominatrix and psychic who not only gave the young man a reading, but also performed oral sex on him, which was oddly presented with Denomme turned from the audience as Offer waved her arms back and forth around him. There was also a sort of simulated sex scene, which may have also served as a reading (I’m not really sure), where the entire cast lifts him up as Offer sings the words to a poem. It was the first of a couple simulated oral sex scenes that involved actors turned away from the audience. In one such scene, Denomme actually pulled his pants down to reveal his bare behind, but stood firm in the middle of the stage – ass out. That was the extent of the nudity and, for the most part, the overt sexuality.
Jacob Free was deeply dark and reserved as David’s true love interest Bernie. He was pretty creepy throughout the show, almost too much so – pretty much giving away his main purpose in the show way too early.
The biggest star of the show was the stylist grey set where literally everything was grey – food labels, phones, bed sheets, floors, tables, chairs – it was all grey (think of the white office that Ulla paints in The Producers).
It may have been a University Players decision to tone the play down for its student players or it may have simply been that the cutting edge story from Fraser just isn’t so cutting edge anymore. Since the 90s, we’ve become a society more acceptable to gays, we can stream just about any sex scene imaginable and we see more violence on the news than on any theatre stage or movie screen. With all those elements gone, we were left with the basic human story of love, which still remains timeless to this day.
While Love and Human Remains wasn’t the show I expected, it was enjoyable to watch, all thanks to the great cast who gave the subject matter the best it could.
The show runs Wednesday to Sunday at Hatch Studio Theatre at the University of Windsor, with matinee shows on both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at universityplayers.com.