Sometimes it's hard not to be loved. Alberta Theatre Projects' latest production combines a soundtrack from a forgotten Canadian pop singer and the trial of a celebrity-obsessed, middle-aged man to form Still Desire You, a quasi-musical that blurs the lines between love and obsession. It is based on the 1980s play I Love You, Anne Murray, which detailed the events of one Saskatchewan farmer's unrequited love for Anne Murray. He was convinced that she was proclaiming her love to him through her songs--and who wouldn't with gems like "Snowbird." Exit the 1980s, toss out Anne Murray and you're left with Still Desire You, written by Paul Ledoux and David Young with a score comprised of songs by Juno Award winner Melanie Doane.
Much like the play on which it was based, Still Desire You examines maritimer David Stuart (Christopher Hunt), an obsessed fan and mental illness candidate that insists his love for pop singer Rose McKay is reciprocated. McKay, played by Erin McGrath, has filed a restraining order against Stuart and the majority of the play takes place in the courtroom where Stuart pleads that love led him to violate his probation. Flashbacks to various Rose McKay concerts are used to help the audience understand where Stuart is coming from, but more than anything, they just end up developing Stuart's creep factor.
The score, composed by Doane, features songs from her five albums--ranging from traditional Celtic jigs to sanguine pop anthems--often plays out like a bad PBS concert series. Doane, largely an unknown, won a Juno in 1999 but most recently toured as the opening act for Canadian Idol runner-up Rex Goudie, even with an award under her belt. McGrath sings and plays the fiddle on the Doane songs and she does an excellent job portraying a marginally important Canadian pop star. Her fellow actors are equally talented at providing the accompanying music. Melanie Doane fans--wherever they may be--are sure to enjoy the renditions, but for everyone else, the songs are only good for providing a break from the insipid narrative.
The performances are all impressive and alongside Hunt and McGrath, Sarah Donald gives a prominent performance as both Ellen Smalls and Kim Downey. John Murphy is also extremely well received, as he is refreshingly comedic playing a host of different minor characters.
Even with outstanding performances from the actors, after two and half hours audiences will be left to wonder what exactly the play is trying to say. It desperately wants to make a statement about society's obsession with celebrities, but that message gets overtaken by Stuart's constant trite expressions about love and its ability to save the world, the seals and--hopefully for him--cure schizophrenia.
Even though it doesn't offer much to intrigue the mind, the emotions or the ears, Still Desire You has its comedic moments and you're destined to enjoy it if you're either a Melanie Doane fan or an avid PBS concert series watcher.