By Jay Menard
There’s a moment of wonderful, though likely completely unintentional, self-awareness in Last Blast: Chet Baker Checks Out. It’s when Chet himself states, “Why don’t you just let me kill myself instead of dragging this thing on.”
Last Blast has its moments. And it has some wondering performances – notably Chris McAuley in the title role. But it’s a production that could do with some editing and a bit less beating of an obviously dead horse.
The play is an anti-It’s a Wonderful Life. And that’s its strength. There is no redemption. There is no “aha” moment where the titular character realizes he’s the source of his own misery. Baker is a vile, deplorable human being with no redeemable characteristics.
Last Blast is a cautionary tale of someone with a modicum of talent, who has a lack of awareness of his limitations, his impact, and his need for improvement. He has a blind spot for his own faults, instead choosing to deflect blame to those around him. And it’s a tale of a man who, instead of finding those who can challenge and improve him, surrounds himself with sycophants and enablers, who merely want to steal a glimmer of a star’s fading glow before it is snuffed out.
There are some interesting elements in the production. Each “ghost” or character for Baker’s past, has a place on stage. They rotate throughout and the visual elements work for the story. However, we get the point early – and the repeated drumming (and for jazz, a medium that thrives in improvisation, repetition is a Cardinal sin) only serves to drown out the impact of the eventual climax.
Fortunately, the play stays dark. There is no repentance. And that’s a bonus.
But as one character states to Baker: “You sure wore the shit out of that song.”
This first weekend review was submitted on behalf of Theatre in London.ca (theatreinlondon.ca)