Live Theatre is back in Windsor and Post Productions gets a little “screw-ed” for its return. In Criminal Genius, written by Canadian playwright and screenwriter George F. Walker, nothing is beyond ridicule. It’s an absurd roller coaster of misadventures, presented in the style of Trailer Park Boys, complete with over-the-top shady characters, a run down set and the biggest backwoods vibe west of Sunnyvale Trailer Park.
It’s an interesting choice of show for the city’s first peek at actual live theatre since the winter, but audiences are showing up in droves. There are only two shows remaining (tonight and Saturday) and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are no seats remaining by show time.
Set in a seedy motel room, it’s a darkly funny story about lowlifes who think they’re a lot smarter than they really are. The story follows the excursions of Rolly, a low level thug, and his son Stevie. The dynamic duo have been hired by a Mafia Boss to burn down a restaurant, but instead of torching the place, the two criminals kidnap the head chef who turns out to be the daughter of the man who hired them. The daughter then attempts to persuade the two criminals and their scummy friend to raid her father’s mansion before he finds and kills them. On top of this, the manager of the motel where the two criminals are hiding out is demanding another payment, which they don’t have. If this was Sunnyvale, you’d think it was just another day for Bubbles and the gang, but Criminal Minds goes deeper and darker down that dirty path than the ‘Boys would have.
I was so taken in by the story and the characters that I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to laugh through it at all. As the humour built, the suspense and action would take over and the under=my=breath giggles would turn into thrilling gasps. It’s one thing to laugh at the outlandish characters of Trailer Park Boys as they fumble around on a TV screen, but these were live people awkwardly scuffling around in front of me, making mistakes every step of the way. This is actually what the magic of live theatre and a perfectly executed story is all about – getting lost in the story and environment around you. It’s rare that I get lost on this level, but somehow the cast of Criminal Genius brought me there and didn’t let go until their very last breaths.
Michael K. Potter’s direction is worthy of note, because off-the-cuff humour and backwoods intelligence can easily go sideways quicker than a plate of barbequed squirrel at a small town southern fair, but at no point does the show cross that line – it stays on track and focused until it’s overly-exaggerated and slightly drawn out conclusion.
It’s no surprise the show works with a cast that includes Rebecca S. Mickle as Amanda, Joey Ouellette as Phillie, Fay Lynn as Shirley, Nikolas Prsa as Stevie and Potter himself as Rolly.
Criminal Genius, Presented in association with Windsor Feminist Theatre, has two remaining shows – tonight (Friday, August 6) and Saturday, August 7. Check with the Shadowbox Theatre to see of any tickets remain: www.postproductionswindsor.ca.