2015 Next Stage Festival Review: DINK (Theatre a-go-go)


DINK, playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival, is an ambitious attempt to meld social satire with surreal theatricality in a musical loosely based on the horrific true tale of Russell Williams.

Anyone in Ontario in 2010 will remember the news: a military commander who stalked women, broke into their houses and stole their underwear, and raped and murdered them. It seems like an odd choice of topic for a musical, or perhaps it felt like an odd choice to me, given that most of the music was upbeat punk-pop. I like that sort of music, and it is what one would expect from director/playwright Caroline Azar, who was a co-founder of the punk band Fifth Column, but given the seriousness of the subject matter it seemed incongruous.

The show starts with two well-off sisters, Lolly (Christy Bruce) and Deb (Sharon Heldt), one of whom has a miserable marriage and a teen daughter; the other has the titular DINK (Double Income, No Kids) marriage, and still coos intimacies in baby talk on the phone with her husband. Her world is soon to be shattered as her spouse, Colonel Billy Thorne (David Keeley), is uncovered as a perverse sexual killer.

Two ghosts haunt the stage, D.T. (Andrea Brown) and Izzy (Lise Cormier) and they do most of the singing in the first part of the show, sometimes joined by the man who will orchestrate their deaths. They are from the same area in Ontario as the Colonel but meet each other, and him, in Afghanistan. The two women fall in love and it is their queer relationship that draws the military commander to them with very dark intentions.

The final characters are Matt De Souza (Kris Siddiqi), the detective investigating Thorne who had a complicated friendship with Izzy, and Thorne’s niece Bethany (Jasmine Chen), Lolly’s daughter, who he has also stalked.

The show has such a unique vision and I admire all that it is trying to achieve, even though I don’t think it’s quite there yet. Azar’s script delves into a terrible real story that is complex all by itself, and further complicates it with fictional elements and theatrical devices to make commentary, to draw connections and to give voice to victims. These victims are not just the women that he stalked, raped and murdered, but also their friends and family, and his own wife and family. (Though the characters in DINK are fictional and are not intended to represent the actual people connected to Russell Williams.)

The most powerful aspect to me was the depiction of Thorne’s wife after her husband’s very public conviction. She feels guilty and furious and afraid, and the ensuing development of her relationship with her sister was affecting. Bethany was also a compelling character: a teenager who, at an already volatile time of life, is traumatized and ostracized but desperate to forgive.

The show is comprised of episodic scenes that take place both in 2009-2010, with the investigation and incarceration of Thorne, and in the past when Izzy and D.T. were alive. There was so much entering and exiting, so much moving around of the set pieces, so much movement without narrative purpose, that it felt loose to me. And while I liked the music a lot, it never seemed to arise naturally or spontaneously from the action. However, there is so much to like about DINK that I hope it gets some tightening and polishing before another remount.


Photo of David Keeley and Sharon Heldt by Tanja Tiziana

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