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Michael Mackenzie
Toronto, Playwrights Canada Press, 1992. 118pp, paper, $10.95
ISBN 0-88754-481-9. CIP.


Reviewed by Gina Varty.

Volume 21 Number 3
1993 May

This play supports Euclid's statement, "there is no royal road to geometry." For, as one of its characters explains, "geometry is the system of flat - two dimensional space ... the very possibility of space." And that is what Michael Mackenzie has created, a world of angles and configurations peopled by characters (four males, two females) who are not what they seem.

The play is an adaptation of Henry James' novella The Pupil, in which a young Canadian Cambridge grad is hired by the outwardly aristocratic yet impoverished Morrens to provide their sickly genius son with a classical education. The play is set in Venice and Paris in the 1880s, two centres of civilization and architecture connected by a railway, Another dimension is added to their evolving relationships in the person of Henry James, as a prospective suitor for their daughter. In the space of a few months and two scenes, propositions are made, notions are clung to, and distances between people are negotiated.

French and Latin phrases abound, as do classical allusions, geometry lessons and witty word play. A novelist is described as "tireless because she only writes from the elbow down." These intellectual aspects reflect the playwright's background: a Ph.D. in French from the University de Montreal, and work for the United Nations.

Geometry in Venice is extremely intellec­tual and raises questions of ethics (remunera­tion for employment) and morality (Mrs. Morren beds the tutor), Because of this, it is highly recommended for mature/adult readers, as they will be able to appreciate fully its finely crafted acute and obtuse angles of incidence.

Gina Varty is Audio Visual Educational Librarian, United Church of Canada, in Edmonton, Alberta.
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