Play Review: Mules
The Magic Theatre’s presentation of Mules, by Winsome Pinnock is a funny and sad look at the market dynamics of international narcotics smuggling in the 90’s. Told from the point of view of the “mules”, the story is embodied in the stories of several characters of various rankings in the drug world. Twelve characters are played by three actors (actresses, can you say actress anymore?). The settings range from a luxury hotel suite to an airport to a prison, varying between London, England and Kingston, Jamaica.
The most striking success of this production is the ability of the cast to portray so many characters in so many locations in so smooth a manner. Costume changes occur rapidly, on stage, between light cues. Different characters played by a single actress require not only separate mannerisms, but accents varying from Jamaican to Cockney. Set changes for the most part, although minimal, are also handled by the cast. There is a lot going on onstage at any given moment, but each scene flows easily into the next.
The only complaint that I have is that the poltergeist that haunts Bridie is not fully developed as either a character or a plot device. The implied significance is that either Bridie is haunted by a girl that died working for her, or she is haunted by her own guilt, or by her past. She is described by her two consorts as supersticious. They do not hear the poltergeist when Bridie (and the audience) does. In the scene when the two prisoners take flight on the wings of a dove, I wondered if maybe they were the poltergeist. I am still not entirely positive their flight was a fantasy. If the scene is testimony to the power of imagination, then in the context of the play, it is possible that the scene is meant to be taken as literal, that they actually left the prison on the wings of a dove. In which case it is just as plausible that they are the poltergeist that is haunting Bridie.
In either case, the story is coherent an enjoyable to experience. One of the nice things about a small venue is the involvement of the audience. There is no “invisible wall” between audience and stage, the stage is surrounded on three sides. As a member of the audience, you are there. Speeches that would be directed at the footlights in a large theatre, are directed to specific audience members. There is a much more palpable tension, which adds impact to the drama presented onstage.
In other words, I really liked the play.