Review: Pleasureville

Review | By Norah Pendergast

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Pleasureville is a contemporary theatre sit-com which examines gender identity and intersectional feminism. Cast with relatable characters, Leah Bowman, played by Brieonna Locche, a student of human sexuality, is best friends with Ash, a law student who is non-binary. Their urban camaraderie is interrupted when a housing crisis and an inheritance spurs Leah’s relocation to small town, Pleasureville, Canada. Leah and Ash, played by Stephane Hood, decide the town needs a sex shop. Culture clash hilarity ensues, embodied by local grandmother Rose, brilliantly played by Charlotte Moore, who comes of age as gender revolutions touch her personal life for the first time.

Ellen Denny’s writing is fast paced, very funny and the production succeeds in captivating viewers with a reflection of right here and now. The set displays Leah’s uninhibited sex shop, full of colourful props which are animated and delightfully repurposed throughout the play. Action is powerfully accompanied by the sound design of June Zinck, whose musical selections and sound effects draw viewers in to the familiarity of the place and time.

Charlotte Moore is razor sharp as Rose, with casually immaculate delivery and brilliant physical acting. It is a rare privilege to watch an actor of Moore’s expertise, in their prime and playing a more contemporary role. Stephane Hood, as Ash, their first non-binary role, is flawless as a person who spreads empowerment out of necessity. Through Ash, audiences bear witness to the pain and frustration a non-binary person experiences when they stop acting and give themselves permission to exist.

Brieonna Locche as Leah portrays the social justice entrepreneur of our era. Nuanced conflict is well written into her relationships with Ash and Rose, both of whom have lived more oppressive experiences under the patriarchy. Leah’s sophistication and righteousness is offset by her tragic flaw of egocentrism, she illustrates hypocrisies often present when feminism lacks intersectionality. Punchy dialogue enlivens the complex dynamics of Ash, Leah and Rose.

At times the urban and rural duality feels cliché driven but it allows Pleasureville to brilliantly navigate critical subject matter with a laugh a minute. Along the way the audience absorbs many appropriate sensitivities about gender identity. Pleasureville is an excellent production, satisfying entertainment with profound and hopeful messages and inspiring performances.

Pleasureville is on stage at The Guild in Charlottetown, select dates until July 28.