Tomo Suru’s The Dance Teacher, is an intriguing play that reads like a Gillian Flynn novel. If you’ve read any of Flynn’s work, or watched the film adaption of her story, Gone Girl, you’ll catch my drift. The Dance Teacher is a dark mystery that draws you in and keeps you hooked as you try to piece the story together.
When the show begins, we meet Justin Belmar, an ex-dance teacher in prison, who proclaims his innocence to the audience. One can only image what crimes he’s been convicted of, and more interestingly, if he really is innocent. We’re then taken back through time so we can witness the preceding events and get to the bottom of things.
This is a dark story that tackles a heavy subject matter. And for those who enjoy Law & Order SVU, you’ll appreciate the similarities in style. We see incidents at the beginning that may or may not be directly associated with the crime in question. Along the way, we gather evidence bit by bit, until it all comes together in the interrogation room.
The intimate setting of Club XY works well for this play, as we’re positioned up close and personal with the actors, many of whom begin their scenes while sitting amongst us. And being so close makes for some uncomfortable moments, particularly during the sex-driven scene between Justin and fellow dancer Gail. I’m certain that’s all part of writer and director Gerald Willliam’s concept for the show.
As Justin, Joey Munroe is outstanding. His portrayal of Justin is so manipulative that it makes it difficult to figure out what’s really going on during the first half of the show. From his cute innocence to his disturbed darkness, Munroe’s masterful delivery makes the story as believable as I imagine it can be, given Williams script.
William’s script is by no means weak. There’s been a lot of thought put into it and Williams understands the recipe for telling a crime drama like this. The final scene, which has been added since the show’s premiere at the Vancouver Fringe Festival last season, does a great job of closing the loop on the story.
The only issue here is that most audience members will have figured out the mystery before the final scene, which acts basically as confirmation to what we already suspect. The story seems to lack a final twist. And although this is a good storytelling effort, I don’t quite believe the story. Furthermore, because the story doesn’t fully convince me, the play never reaches a level where it becomes thought-provoking. But I applaud the creative angle Williams has taken to this subject matter.
Also excellent in the cast is Maegen Eastwood, whose Detective Mori is certainly not a detective I would ever want to be grilled by. Eastwood really uses her physical movements to communicate her character’s personality and thoughts to the audience; likewise, her dialogue delivery is just as strong. Both Munroe and Eastwood’s performances bring the mystery element of William’s script to life, equally balancing out both ends of the scale.
See if you can be as cunning as Detective Mori in figuring out the story's mystery. Catch The Dance Teacher and experience this interesting crime drama for yourself. The story is unique, the cast is great, and the overall experience is enjoyable for the inner detective in us.
Tomo Suru’s The Dance Teacher runs at Club XY until Sunday, July 22. For ticket information, visit Tomo Suru’s website.