Torontoist attended the much-touted opening of CanStage’s season last night – Alan Bennett’s 1973 sex farce Habeas Corpus. We’ve long been great admirers of Morris Panych, and generally find his work to be some of the most interesting on Toronto’s stages, and we naturally want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but we neither share nor understand his fondness for Alan Bennett. The world of Habeas Corpus is full of doctors who feel up their patients, and vicars who look up girls’ skirts. Booby-grabbing is frequently substituted for an actual punchline, and there is a running joke about the “permissive society” that flew right over our head. The older members of the audience (who were all tuxed up for the opening, which TOist loves to see) all seemed to have a good chuckle, so our nonplussed reaction may have been more of a generation gap problem than anything else. It’s not that this production has nothing to recommend it; the inexplicable dance sequences are a lark, the lighting is beautiful, and Shiela McCarthy is always a joy to watch. And we certainly don’t begrudge Panych his ribald whims, but we can’t really help but wonder what CanStage, whose mandate is ostensibly to promote Canadian theatre, is doing with a dated (and misogynistic) British farce, no matter how shiny they’ve made it.
Habeas Corpus runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre until November 5th.