I'll say this for the show: the audience loved it. They laughed, they cried, they nodded along in their seats; the woman sitting next to me even whispered "No! No!" before one of the characters did something she shouldn't have. Death and Taxes is a two and half hour play about Quebec politics and tax evasion: to be honest, the audience's devotion shocked me.
This latest offering at the Saidye Bronfman Centre is a docu-drama. It recaps true events in Quebec's history, as seen through the eyes of writer-director Guy Sprung's fictional character, Nathan Carter. As a documentary, Death and Taxes certainly succeeds. Sprung knows his Quebec politics and his tax law lingo. He uses newspaper clips and great time-specific music to string together a cohesive political history. And this is what the audience seemed to love: they saw their prime ministers, their scandals, their stories up there.
As a drama, on the other hand, Death and Taxes has its problems. The script is much too long. It's too light on irony ("Computers are going to be big!" the 70's characters tell each other, as though they've invented this joke) and too heavy on, well, most things. Sprung has a clear political message and he uses Carter, his "anti-hero" to beat us over the head with it. That said, the acting was all pretty good (especially Andreas Apergis in all his incarnations) and the technical stuff-a brave combination of slides, pre- taped clips and live video-went off without a hitch.
I should probably point out, though, that about ninety percent of the aforementioned "audience" was over 65. Why is this important? Well, it seems as though these are the folks for whom hearing Brian Mulroney referred to as Brian Baloney is quite hilarious. Perhaps because the play recounted, as I have said, their particular history, this older demographic was better able to enjoy the play's "documentary" qualities and overlook its "dramatic" failings. I couldn't really. But don't take it from me, I'm just a girl who doesn't find jokes about "John Diefenbaker" all that funny.
Infinitheatre's world premiere of Death and Taxes runs until April 10, 2005. Check out www.saidyebronfman.org.