In Jean Marc Dalpe’s “Lucky Lady,” life is on the line for five losers. If the racehorse that gives the play its title wins, two jailbirds, a wannabe country singer, a punk single mother and a New Age freak have a chance at the good life. If the horse loses, they remain in the shadows. For the audience, finding out matters little.
Although the climax of the play (which was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award in the original French version) has performers and audiences on the edge by the time the race builds to a thrilling photo finish, learning the fates of the five characters holds little excitement: They begin and end as losers, railing and swearing at the hands they’ve been dealt and at one another.
Part social drama, part dark comedy, Dalpe’s script commands attention but rarely establishes emotional connections. This is partly because of a structure that introduces characters obliquely rather than through linear interaction, and partly because of the deadening effect of almost constant profanity.
The detachment is increased by the uncomfortable mix of acting styles. At one end of the scale, Emma Campbell is highly credible in a low-key and ladylike performance (despite body piercing, tattoos and distractingly torn tights). In a highly disciplined portrayal, Beverley Wolfe is in control of her emotions, even as she spits out profanities. Rick Hughes and Tony Munch, in playing for laughs, tend toward overblown characterizations that sometimes grate. But it is Annick Leger who really takes her posturing into the realm of caricature and out of sync with the rest of the cast.
In this horserace, director Micheline Chevrier should have pulled in the reins to give more of an ensemble quality to a production that moves from a tediously slow, rap-style beginning to a galloping finish.