We had an eventful family weekend. We went to our first Toronto FC match against New York on Saturday night and it was an exciting game, although it was my second time that weekend where I did not know who to root for. I did not know Toronto’s color, until I asked the gentleman next to me (Toronto FC home colors are Red). How they play in 8 degree weather in shorts and a light shirt is beyond me, it was freezing. Even more surprising was the fact that at half time they watered the grass, making for a cold slide …. But very entertaining and in a heartbreaking last minute goal (That was just amazing to watch), New York tied it.
As I mentioned, this was my 2nd time over the weekend where I didn’t know who to cheer for. The first was on Friday night at the London musical Chess, playing in downtown Toronto. In reading about the play, I was expecting a dramatic – East versus West – cold war type scenario where the chess match symbolizes the struggle of the US versus the USSR. One could get that from this synopsis:
Two of the world’s greatest chess masters battle it out at the world chess championships but their greatest contest is for the love of one woman. Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, the American and the Russian fight to win the heart of Florence Vassy in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War all set to an explosive score by the composers of Mamma Mia and the lyricist of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.
The costumes were fantastic. The performers were very talented, as they acted the part of chess piece while often playing an instrument. The music was well executed. But as the first half ended, I was left wondering, who do I cheer for? The plot is a little more complex than what is suggested above and incredibly odd, my synopsis (spoiler alert):
- American and USSR chess players face off for World Champion title surrounded by the intrigue of East versus West.
- American pulls temper tantrum, introducing the USSR player to the American’s coach and girlfriend.
- American girlfriend and USSR chess player hit it off. He defects after winning with girlfriend.
Which is the point where they lose me as there is this minor element that is not really mentioned (I happened to read it in the synopsis); he defects with the girl but in doing so abandons his wife and children behind the iron curtain. While he is doing it, the focus is on their blossoming relationship and he clearly isn’t torn about abandoning his family.
Queue second act (Insert me scratching my head and wondering – so should I be rooting for the dead beat who just abandoned his family, for the woman who stole him or for the American chess player who clearly has abandonment and anger issues?):
- Ex-USSR chess player goes to Bangkok to defend his title against another USSR chess player.
- Insert intrigue of his wife showing up and trying to get him to come back to the USSR, while the USSR villain tries to blackmail him into losing in exchange for the return of his American girlfriend’s dad who has been a political prisoner in Hungary for 20+ years – unbeknownst to the American girlfriend – and to ensure his captive family is protected. (Perhaps the writer was watching ‘Days of our Lives’ when penning this – the only thing missing is an evil twin brother who shows up unexpectedly after going missing in a fishing accident 20 years ago)
At this point, I accidentally laughed out loud at a serious part as it was getting ridiculous and I am still left wondering, who am I supposed to be pulling for? It gets worse:
- ex-USSR chess player anguishes over his decision. What to do? Lose the match? Win the match? Save the family he abandoned and save his girlfriend’s dad but lose the match? At which point the American offers some advice that was probably meant to be a ‘rise above it all’ inspirational moment (but left me laughing out loud) – “%^&@!!* it – win it for the game of Chess”.
- He decides to win it but return to Russia, saying good-bye to his American girlfriend and walking hand in hand into the sunset with his wife, singing something ridiculous about how there can be a happy ending … I was going to cheer for the Russian wife, but seeing her taking him back really made me wonder.
The whole thing left me perplexed. And then it dawned on me …. I realized that this has two people from ABBA involved in it and it all makes sense! Great costumes, some fun music but completely lacking in real depth. My suggestion, avoid if you can.