Whatever else can be said about The Gazette, she has proven herself a worthy muse. Brian Moore’s novel The Luck of Ginger Coffey and William Weintraub’s Why Rock the Boat? both pillaged newsroom antics for material in the early Sixties. Now a former copy editor has taken another kick at the old girl, on her imagined deathbed.
Judged by the title and several monologues, David Sherman intended The Daily Miracle as a lament for a by-gone era, the days when it was fun to gather “news” and race against a tight deadline. The newsroom presented in Infinitheatre’s premiere of his play is indeed a lonely place, even by the standards of small cast plays. Two reporters, two editors and as many empty desks – about the right ratio, given a decade-long binge of buy-outs, lay-offs and cheap news cribbed from generic sources. The set by James Lavoie is great. Best use of an empty swimming pool in recent memory.
It’s a dismal place, the night-time “Star”, burned-out staffers cynically processing copy about vacuous rock stars, extreme weather and outlandish animals while upper management gathers behind closed doors to decide the two century-old institution’s fate. True to the maxim You Are What You Eat, none of the three veterans can resist a slew of cheap shots about and often directed at – a voluptuous young staff member’s ample breasts. Sheena Gaze-Deslandes has a thankless and severely underwritten role as Carrie, the new girl, a.k.a. the future. She keeps lecturing the others on how web journalism is going to swallow them all. Yet her employers have her proof-reading paper page proofs. Quaint.
Arthur Holden is hilarious as Marty, recently returned from mental illness leave and content to pop pills to pass the night away. Vigorously exercising the madman’s liberty, Marty has most of Sherman’s wickedly funny lines (and there are many). Ellen David and Howard Rosenstein bear up well under the burden of serious roles (a single mother juggling her child’s fever and a breaking story; an alienated father battling burnout and professional responsibility). Jean-Guy Bouchard as the former typesetter turned janitor gives 200% in what feels like an extended cameo.
In short, the cast and production are first-rate. The problem is the play. There is none. The Daily Miracle is a situation comedy without the relief of commercials. A traditional pyramid-style news story stood on its head: everything of importance happens in the last 15 minutes. (Hint: Benny and Elizabeth have a child together. I’m not spoiling the plot, I’m telling you what you need to know to believe there is one.)
But why quibble if there’s no play there? We’re living in the Age of Mediocrity, right? At least that’s what The Daily Miracle tells us. And there’s no fighting City Hall either, is there? (Ask Projet Montreal).
Go to Infinitheatre’s non-play for the laughs.
By the way, buy The Gazette. If she folds, what will we write about?
Former Gazette theatre critic Marianne Ackerman is filling in for Rover theatre critic Anna Fuerstenberg while she’s in Ecuador, making a salary, saving up to work for Rover.
The Daily Miracle continues at Bain St-Michel, 5300 St-Dominique St. through February 14. Tickets: 514-987-1774.
Photo: Arthur Holden as Marty.
Photo credit: Alexie Anikine.