Slick by Karen Lee Pickett. Uno Fest May 2015.

Slick by Karen Lee Pickett. Uno Fest May 2015.

Quip after acerbic quip flows from the mouth of trash-talking oil-company PR hack Marlene in the premiere of Karen Lee Pickett’s solo show Slick, presented as part of Intrepid Theatre’s UNO Fest.

Marlene’s been in the trenches of the PR battle against environmentalists and the general public since the Exxon Valdez ran aground on the shores of Prince William Sound. Cool and collected, she’s proud of her ability to “distract, disinform and disable”, and is completely unprepared for the swift turn of events that sees her banished from the Canadian office in Calgary to her home state of Texas.

Adrift, and at-odds, she comes to rest in the back-of-beyond of her youth, her father’s hot and dusty patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere, only to find him dying with the Keystone XL Pipeline about to be plowed through his house.

Irony (“the British kind”) drips from every incident, situation and character thread in this finely-detailed portrayal of realities colliding. Marlene has worked all her adult life to forget the “small town bullshit of everyone knowing my name”, distancing herself from a widowed father who could never show his love. Yet, when her world falls apart, solace can only be found here. Sadly, it’s all too late.

Pickett excels at rage—smouldering, aware, then completely off-the-rails blind-drunk, she staggers about the house at night, searching for clues and evidence, attempting to find meaning and a way forward.

Slick is no romanticized reunion wherein the loving wayward daughter makes amends, rather, it’s a glorious mess of loose ends and dropped threads, of half-hearted attempts at re-connecting, interspersed with descriptive passages that left me longing for a novel of the same name, if only to flesh out characters like Linda, a former class-mate who comes calling with cake; Aunt Mary Jo who is leading the charge at getting the pipeline banished; Olive the caregiver who bakes goodies laced with marijuana for her ailing patient; and—always in the distance, a lone coyote in the soon-to-be-butchered stand of trees.

Marlene is “hoisted with her own pétard”, a victim of her own communications strategy. It’s this impossible situation that takes a rather unlovable, hard and shameless character and softens her for the audience. At the same time, Slick conveys the Hobson’s choice facing many in a state, and world, dependent on oil.

Sharp, mordant, and very funny, Slick is laced with bold writing, and vivid characters. What happens when the tables are turned and “them” becomes “us”? Slick rejects the monolithic for a more human scale, capturing the interpersonal drama amid the hype of a society driven by big oil.

Slick, created and performed by Karen Lee Pickett
On the Lam Productions (Victoria)
Directed by Kate Rubin
75 minutes – drama
Tickets $18 at Ticket Rocket, online, in person (2-1609 Fisgard at Blanshard) and by phone 250 590 0691

Tues May 19, 6:30* (Pay What You Can)
Wed May 20, 8:45
Sat May 23, 7:00

Marlene is a publicist for the oil industry, and an advocate for pipelines everywhere… until she returns to her childhood home in Texas to care for her dying father and finds the Keystone XL Pipeline about to come through his garage. Developed through Intrepid Theatre’s You Show and UnoWorks programs – Uno is honoured to present the premiere of this new local play.

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary ticket to Slick for the purpose of writing a review.

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