A wonderful confection of cock-eyed characters are at the heart of Marianne Ackerman’s dark hearted comedy, Triplex Nervosa that’s playing at the Centaur until May 17. Written on her kitchen table on a weekend, Ackerman’s play involves the trials and tribulations of a Mile End landlord, Tass Nazor (Holly Gauthier Frankel) who owns a heavily mortgaged triplex in Montreal’s trendy crunchy granola neighbourhood. She is in dire straights and needs to rid herself of a rather forlorn tenant, Max Fishbone (Howard Rosenstein), who has moved into his son’s apartment and won’t move out. The action begins with Tass suggesting to her rather sinister Slavic handyman Rakie Ur, (Karl Graboshas), that he take care of her problem by subjecting Max to some sort of “invisible damage.”
Max’s son, however, has recently committed suicide, which helps to explain why Max is squatting in the flat. Sympathy, however, does not stave off creditors. To complicate the situation if Tass wishes to keep the building she has been forced to sell a floor. When Max winds up electrocuted in the bathroom the circumstantial evidence “pulls together in a very bad way,” to incriminate Tass as his killer. Who else would want him dead?
In charge of the homicide investigation that follows is Sgt. Germaine Tremblay (Catharine Lemieux). Among those subjected to her line of questioning are the building’s previous Hasidic owner, Aaron Klein. (Daniel Brochu), Damien-Marie de Beaufort, (Brett Watson) a French lothario who lives in the unit on the second floor and Alisha Tate, (Kayleigh Choiniere), an artist who is a prospective buyer They are all stereotypical characters, but characters that become irresistibly real once their back stories are revealed.
Catherine Lemieux is hilarious as the robust franglais cop who untangles the truths and deceptions that are at the heart of the story. Howard Rosenstien does nice work handling the dual role of Max and his brother, Kevin, a Chicago lawyer. Daniel Brochu is a wry, sly Klein and Karl Graboshas is quirky as the jack- of-all-trades who falls under suspicion. Not everything works; ghosts on stage and a drag parody of a Westmount matron are a bit of a distraction, but nothing to get picky about.
James Lavoie has designed a perfect set, complete with third floor skylight and spiral staircase and he ingeniously makes use of three different overhead light fixtures to distinguish which of the dingy units we happen to be in at any given time. By double casting some of the roles and mixing up French and English, director Roy Surette has added a light touch to what is, after all, begins as a tense situation. It ends happily, of course, with a strangely appropriate dance of one big happy, extended family – perhaps a metaphor for the kind of camaraderie that is rooted in Mile End in Montreal and in this terrifically funny show.