A great secret, like great art, is in the eye of the beholder. And in the case of Mockingbird Close, some mysteries are best left unsolved, and maybe unwatched.
That may be a little harsh given Trevor Schmidt’s pedigree as a local playwright and director, but Mockingbird Close was a bit of a dead end, frankly.
Not that the premise didn’t sound intriguing. Hank (Cody Porter) and Iris (Tiana Leonty) are a couple isolated in their own neighbourhood, searching for their lost son while uncovering some ugly truths about the people they’ve otherwise managed to avoid. Thematically, it plays a bit like Mad Men meets the underrated Tom Hanks comedy The Burbs.
Performance-wise, Porter and Leonty do decent work, but much of their dialogue is exposition by way of monologue so there isn’t much chemistry to be had. Their marriage may be dysfunctional, but because they’re drawn more as archetypes it’s hard to draw much of a connection to them as characters.
When they do set out into the neighbourhood to find their son, the neighbours feel more like clichéd red herrings and the finale’s big reveal is more of a ponderous head-scratcher.
Ultimately, Mockingbird Close is too cryptic for its own good.
Simpler pleasures are to be had with For the Love of a Zombie. Granted, you can telegraph the play’s mystery after just a few minutes, but it doesn’t make the proceedings any less interesting — or less fun.
Beyond the scares and gore, zombie movies have traditionally been fertile ground for social commentary, whether it’s George A. Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead or the comedic Shawn of the Dead. In the instance of For the Love of a Zombie, the play seems predicated simply on any and every opportunity to pillage the dead for cheap laughs.
Oh, there’s a plot all right. Earnest drifter takes a job as a farmhand in southern Alberta only to discover secrets buried in the field. A zombie attack ensues, their taste for flesh outdone only by the script’s penchant for one-liners. Sure, a horny zombie who refers to himself as “a stiff” is hardly deep, but it got the job done.
If the play has one shortcoming, it’s that it may depend a little too heavily on its multimedia component — roughly half the play is a film of the same characters projected onto a screen.
However, it’s a minor quibble in what is an otherwise amusing romp.