Recipient of the Frankie Award for Best English Text (2016 Montréal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival) and Finalist of Infinithéâtre’s 2015 Write-On-Q! competition, Michael Milech’s award-winning play “Honesty Rents by the Hour” dauntlessly returns to the stage from March 10th to 26th, 2017 at the Rialto Infinite Studio.
Picture this: a middle-aged Hasidic rabbi, a married francophone mother of one, and a 22-year-old secular Jew clandestinely meet at a dingy motel for a one-night-stand threesome.
Not exactly the perfect portrait of romance, we reckon.
The intimate rendezvous of this most unlikely of trios, however, is the very premise of “Honesty Rents by the Hour”, an intriguingly provocative play with a charming appeal that’s more than just skin deep.
Set in modern-day Montréal, we first happen on Chantal (Catherine Yale), the scantily clad MILF from Saint-Eustache, as she enters the rented “room-where-it-happens” at the run-down inn. Unfulfilled and depressed by the drudgery of her daily duties as a housewife and a part-time receptionist, she’s planned an evening with two strangers for an anonymous 3-way. Unprepared for who and what she’s about to encounter, however, Chantal paces the floor, suddenly contemplating aborting the illicit liaison.
Just as she’s about to take to her glittering sky-high heels, McGill grad student Danny (Patrick Keeler) greets her with an oily grin at the door, hot and ready for his next erotic escapade. Overconfident and sardonic, the sexually liberated Jew claims no conversational topic is off-limits for him, and they bypass the small talk to get deep (in, uh, discussion) real quick.
When the final missing mystery piece of the ménage-à-trois arrives to knock at the door, the adventure begins to go awry. Much to Danny’s dismay, in walks bachelor Pinchas (Howard Rosenstein), a libidinous but sexually ambiguous orthodox Jew from Outremont whose family and community would repudiate him if they were ever to learn of his drive and orientation. What begins with an irritated Danny’s accusation of Pinchas not resembling his online profile picture soon escalates to a confrontation of their cultures, and what was supposed to be a night of frisky fun between the triad eventually turns into a denuding of their souls.
Director Matt Jacobs here brings back the same delicious ensemble cast from last year’s Fringe: Yale is delectable as the blonde Québécoise Chantal in all her guilt-ridden melodrama; Keeler is equally enthralling in the skin of the secretly shielded cynic Danny; it is veteran actor Rosenstein, however, who grounds the production in his composed portrayal of the complex Hassid Pinchas. With their collective comic chops and chemistry, it’s a satisfying encore performance.
(Not having previously seen the show during its Fringe run, unfortunately we’re not in the capacity to further elaborate on its evolvement. As a side note, however, we weren’t fans of the seating configuration at the venue for this piece. A more intimate setup would’ve perhaps sealed the deal.)
Milech’s sharp script moves its audiences from surface laughter to profound empathy. He strips his characters bare – literally and figuratively – to reveal their unspoken desires, insecurities and fears. They desperately yearn to share a repressed part of themselves, but it is only in a safe space far from home and in the presence of strangers – those who hold no preconceived judgements to inhibit authentic behaviour – that they can freely express and live their truth.
“Honesty” is thus startlingly human. Its humour is provocative, but not gratuitous. It’s short and sweet, but emotionally charged in the progressive peeling of its idiosyncratic characters’ layers. Above all, it’s more than just a casual affair, using relevant themes of religion, sexual identity and orientation to ask us to look beyond stereotypes that lead to prejudice.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon
Where: Rialto Infinite Studio (5711 Avenue du Parc, 3rd floor, H2V 4G9)When: March 7th to 26th, 2017
Running Time: 45 minutes (no intermission)Admission: $17 Previews/Groups; $20 Students/Seniors; $25 General AdmissionBox Office: www.eventbrite.ca
Playwright: Michael Milech
Director: Matthew Jacobs
Artistic Director: Guy Sprung
Production Designer, Manager and Technical Director: Andrew Scriver
Assistant Technical Director: Chris Wardell
Starring: Patrick Keeler, Howard Rosenstein, Catherine Yale