Slipping into the show five minutes late, I was worried I’d missed some crucial detail about the scene unfolding in front of me. However, like any good seduction, Seduced starts on a low flame and turns the heat up at its own pace. I quickly caught on that madness and alienation are linked to ambition and financial success. Money makes men into monsters, lured by its Siren song into dehumanizing acts and desperation.
Afraid of daylight and physical contact, chair-bound tycoon Henry Hackamore (inspired by the real life Howard Hughes and here played by Laurent Pitre) stays alive on blood transfusions that contains only the blood from “geniuses.” He wraps his hands and feet in toilet paper to avoid touching microscopic organisms and alternates between lucidity and insanity while ranting. The only person whose touch he endures is that of Raul (Joe Garcque), his doggedly loyal bodyguard and nurse for the past 15 years. Raul massages and rocks his master, yes-ing his every whim and taking Hackman’s most outlandish requests with the equanimity and patience one might show a beloved grandparent. The arrival of two attractive women to function as sexy jesters at Hackamore’s secretive hideout threatens the balance of master and servant. All three want the one thing Hackamore can offer — his money.
For all his ranting and difficulty, Pitre delivers Hackamore as a highly likable and pitiable character whose vision and dignity grasp his whole body, only to ebb into paranoia. We believe that this man has lost his mighty empire of hotels, airplanes, oil wells, and women to frailty and madness. Even further, we see how his possession of a fortune draws people to him and he is all too aware of the danger in every man’s hearts, save for Raul. His madness is understandable, a protective reaction to others who prey on him that has turned to dysfunction. “Nothing is harmless until it is squashed,” he tells Raul. The only contracts he trusts are those made in the air.
The show is well acted and well staged. Garcque is perfect as Raul, the ever loyal servant, sometimes indulging Hackamore, sometimes telling him the truth, but never once seeming beaten down or cheerless. This is all the more relevant towards the end when Raul undergoes a shift. Miami (Anna Springale-Floch) and Luna (MIchelle Langlois-Fequet) saunter in like sexy, film-noir types who bat their eyelashes, wiggle their hips, and try to flirt their way into Hackamore’s good graces. Luna implies she had a past with Hackamore, though Miami seems unfamiliar with his ways. Both manage to entice him in their own way, while warily considering each other as competition. As her name implies, Miami is sunnier, a bombshell whose positivity turns to frustration when she realizes that pleasing Hackamore is beyond her capabilities. And as her name implies, Luna is darker, shadier, able to switch on her allure when required.
As one expects from Raise the Stakes Theatre, Anoton Golikov delivers a well performed and directed production. The acting is fine. The story has a modern feel with its themes about the destructive power of money. Though the situation probably demands a more enriched set, the sparsity gives the play an artsy, almost defiant feel.
Sam Shepard’s Seduced runs November 6-9 at the Theatre St. Catherine. 8 p.m. Tickets $15.