This play skewers the Canadian film industry

Vittorio Rossi takes on Can-con, but The Envelope is not the strongest platform from which to cast a stone.

Envelope6 ©AndréeLanthier_Ron Lea, Leni Parker

Ron Lea and Leni Parker in The Envelope. Photo by Andrée Lanthier

Vittorio Rossi’s The Envelope has all the ingredients for the making of a sharp, original and funny script: a firmly established local setting, a cast of quirky secondary characters and jokes about being Italian.

And yet, running at 160 minutes, the Centaur Theatre’s production (also directed by Rossi) drags and proves unable to break out of its static talking heads set-up.

Set in an Italian restaurant in the present day, the action of the play focuses on playwright and screenwriter Michael Moretti (played by Ron Lea), who must decide whether to sell the rights to his script for a big payday or retain creative control over the project.

Dubbed as a satire, the play is ultimately a 160-minute skewering of the Canadian film industry and the schlock it turns out annually. As the show goes on, the initially humourous trash talk starts to feel progressively more like ranting.

The script is certainly sharp and delivers some comedic Montreal-isms. Bartender Franco (Tony Calabretta) and self-centred actor Andrew (Shawn Campbell) provided a much-needed dose of humour and vitality.

David Gow was another beacon of charisma in his role as the smarmy big-time film producer who laughs too loudly at his own jokes.

The set is elaborate and reminiscent of the proverbial Montreal Italian restaurant. It’s welcoming, adaptable for all occasions and proves a smart choice for the play’s anchoring space.

Still, the action seems to be going in circles at times as the group agonizes over this one central decision: take a risk on an indie production company, or sign on to a big budget deal.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to stay engaged with this back-and-forth due to the lack of stakes. Michael is given the least backstory of any of the characters — all he has is his artistic integrity and his loyalty to his friends. At no point was I in doubt about which path he would choose in the end. ■


The Envelope runs at the Centaur Theatre (453 St-François-Xavier) through April 19, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, weekend matinees at 2 p.m., $27–$49.50