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Review: Pleasureville is more than a millennial comedy of errors

Neptune's latest play—which finishes its world premiere run this weekend—is warm, funny and woke.

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Pleasureville could've been a plucky comedy of errors but instead, the play surprises by going deeper. - STOO METZ PHOTO
  • Stoo Metz photo
  • Pleasureville could've been a plucky comedy of errors but instead, the play surprises by going deeper.
Leah is recently single, perpetually broke, and in need of a change. Moving to Pleasureville, where she has inherited her grandmother’s house, seems like an obvious, temporary solution. Soon enough, she has opened a sex shop—and feels newfound determination to make it work, despite the odds.

It sounds like a perfect setup for a plucky comedy of errors—young millennial from the city meets pearl-clutching grannies from a sleepy small town—but Pleasureville has so much more charm and heart than one could ever anticipate.

The relationship between Leah (Julia Topple) and her best friend Ash (Breton Lalama) is at the play’s centre. From these two performers, their dynamic is so natural and lived-in, full of the idiosyncrasies of a long friendship, that it could sustain a whole play on its own.

Even when they talk on the phone, not interacting physically, we understand who they are to the other, but also how much care they offer. Lalama plays Ash like the best friend we all wish we had, and Topple’s Leah is effortlessly appealing, intelligent and good. Everyone in this play is fundamentally kind, and what a refreshing world it is to be in.

Let’s not forget Rose, played by the scene-stealing Sherry Smith. Rose is an older local, keen on getting a job at the shop. If it takes her a while to warm up to Leah and her store’s pleasures, it’s not because her views are so fundamentally different, and to the playwright’s credit, Pleasureville seeks to understand the common ground, rather than use differences for easy laughs.

Pleasureville is a breath of fresh air. Ellen Denney’s new comedy is a crowd-pleasing, heartwarming play that also incidentally deals with gender fluidity, sexuality, and intersectional feminism. Take your mother, take your grandmother. Heck, take all the men in your life, too. There is something in Pleasureville for everyone.

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