Confessions of a Chocaholic is a one-woman show that tells the very personal story of the two obsessions in one woman’s life: Chocolate, and the baby she gave up for adoption twenty-eight years ago. In the one-act play, Karen (played by writer Geraldine Brophy) tells the story of the last twenty-eight years of her life to the daughter she has never met. It is the story of prejudice, of changing values, of tyrannical mothers and absent fathers, and sometimes it works very well as a play. And sometimes it doesn’t.
As one might expect from the subject matter at hand, Confessions is a largely dramatic, even depressing tale told with liberal doses of (sometimes black) humour. Rightly so; without this comic relief the material would be far too bleak for your average Downstage crowd. By far the biggest laughs are derived from Karen’s impersonations of the characters who populate her narrative: The Chinese pastry chef who teaches Karen to make deserts; her God-fearing Irish Catholic mother and her two sisters, less pious to say the least and now relocated to run hotels in France (The Blessed Virgin’s Motor Lodge and The Vatican); Karen’s droll friend Jacqui, met at the convalescent home where both girls are sent to give birth under the watchful eye of a Sister who operates the “Three Ups” birthing method – legs, open, shut; her gabby older sister and monosyllabic brother-in-law – every character, played by a single actress, is well-defined and distinct, making just enough of stereotype to generate humour but still absolutely realistic. The same can’t be said for all of the show’s comedy, however; unusually for Brophy and for director Jude Gibson, the comic timing is frequently off, particularly where the one-liners are concerned, and many fall flat.
This is forgivable. There’s enough good material to make up for it. What isn’t, is the story arc. Karen’s autobiographical narrative starts out compellingly enough, as she deals with the injustices accorded an unwed, pregnant, Catholic 16-year-old in 1976, and as we watch the shock-waves of her forced adoption reverberate into her adulthood. But the last quarter of the play is much weaker. A series of wild coincidences lead to a pat, almost fairytale ending. The character becomes far less real, and the audience’s sympathy wanes. It’s a disappointing conclusion to a promising introduction; it wasn’t just the fact that I’d spent eighty minutes hearing about chocolate, and hadn’t eaten any all day, that caused me to leave this play feeling unsatisfied.