Would you give me your hour?
That depends, you might say, will I enjoy it? Will I be glad I did? What will I get in return for my hour? When this hour is gone, what will happen to the hours that follow?
If the hour you give is the hour you spend watching Stewart Lemoine’s The Exquisite Hour, produced by Relephant Theatre Co-op and presented at the Revue Stage on Granville Island, then I may be so bold as to reply, yes, you will enjoy your hour, yes, you will be glad you gave it to see this play, and as for the hours that follow The Exquisite Hour, that’s for you to decide (but I imagine you will spend some of them dreaming of sunshine and letting a private smile play across your face).
Would you give me your hour?
This is the question the oddly forward Helen Darimont asks shy bachelor Zachary Teale after she intrudes on his evening ritual of a quiet glass of lemonade in his garden. Zachary’s hour is the favour he grants, and it is this hour, played in real time, that the audience is privy to.
On the surface, this dainty two-hander, set in 1962, seems it may be perilously close to saccharine–the colours are bright, the patterns are floral, and there is a “just-so” simplicity to the story that could quite potentially grate against the sensibilities of any confirmed cynic.
But to hell with the cynics, I say, this play is lovely. To fault a story for being sweet is like faulting someone for smiling–if the impulse behind the good cheer is genuine, you’re probably just jealous. To dwell on the sweetness of this play as a flaw is to see the lemonade glass as half empty (and to not even notice that there’s a shot of bourbon inside).
Bourbon indeed. The saving grace of The Exquisite Hour is that it is not all sunny yellow sweetness. Actors Nevada Yates Robart (Helen) and Josue Laboucane (Zachary) infuse the good-natured humour of Lemoine’s script with a total and hilarious commitment to playfulness. It will likely be the strangest and nicest hour-long conversation you will ever eavesdrop on and I know I wasn’t the only member of the audience to scream with laughter or shake my head as an incredibly awkward but incredibly funny moment unfolded in front of me.
In case you are wondering, The Exquisite Hour is not an avant garde play. It is not high-tech. It will not cover your world in shades of ethical grey or expose the dirty underbelly of society. Plays that do these things are often good plays, and you find yourself leaving the theatre unsettled and challenged. The Exquisite Hour does not do these things, and yet, The Exquisite Hour is a good play, one that will leave you bright-eyed and tickled (take that, cynics!).
The appeal of The Exquisite Hour lies in its balanced combination of sunny nostalgia and refreshing verbal and physical humour. It’s a warm summer evening–spent with your weird but lovely neighbours. The world’s alright, the lemonade’s cool, and it’s that little kick of something just a bit stronger that makes your hour truly, well, exquisite.
Quite happily, I gave my hour to Relephant Theatre and I don’t want it back. If you would like to do yourself the favour of spending your hour at the Revue Stage, The Exquisite Hour will be running until May 12, with both evening and matinee performances. Tickets can be purchased online through VancouverTix.com, or by calling 604-629-8849.
Disclosure: My ticket (and +1) for the opening night of The Exquisite Hour was provided by Relephant Theatre. I remain the sole author of my content.