Not Quite Dead 

A review of Hamster Cage

Reviewed by Vivian Moreau

Some people may find this black comedy a little too black in the telling of a dysfunctional mouth-kissing (eww!) family’s dark reunion.

Lucy (Jillian Fargey) and Paul (Tom Scholte) return to their parent’s Tuscan like home in somewhere B.C. – heck, it could be Whistler – to celebrate their father’s imminent Nobel prize. "Too bad so much weird shit happens around here," Lucy says when brother Paul starts expounding about super natural B.C. And sure enough it does, when Uncle Stanley arrives with distressing gifts and his Betty Boop-wannabe-writer-girlfriend the chiselled family façade quickly crumbles. A pair of panties is the trigger for Lucy to co-opt her brother and whack her pedophile uncle.

This play of a film would work just as well on stage with its tight cast collection and cerebral twists. Characters in this film are mercurial: one minute you think Lucy is the protagonist, the next you don’t want to sit beside her. And the one you peg as the nut, Carly Pope as Candy "that’s my name and that’s what I am" with her too small school uniform and legs that don’t stop, turns out to be the sanest of the bunch. Director and co-writer Larry Kent sets her up with the best lines, like a back-handed bow to insufferable writers everywhere when she mutters as she scribbles: "If I don’t get top writer award for this I’m going postal."

Kudos must go to Scott Hylands as the unapologetic pedophile with a knack for resurrecting not only himself but twisted family secrets. Sins of fathers are not only remembered but passed along with the sumptuously-voiced Alan Scarfe as a father who simply can’t set aside his own needs or desires. Patricia Dahlquist is the ice-cold mother who loves one child way too much and the other not enough.

If you walk away from Hamster Cage not knowing whether to laugh or shiver then you’ve successfully experienced the purpose of the genre. Black comedy owes its roots to theatre of the absurd and of cruelty, where all you can really do is shake your head at the glorious ridiculousness of life.

Hamster Cage plays 9:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at Village 8 Cinemas, as part of the Whistler Film Festival.

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