Factory Theatre presents Rick Miller in HARDSELL 2.0 through October 23.
Make no mistake about it, Rick Miller is incredibly talented. He sings, he dances, he acts and is capable of doing about a zillion spot-on impersonations. However, HARDSELL 2.0 which follows hot on the heels of his two other solo efforts, MacHomer and Bigger Than Jesus, opening this season at Factory Theatre may not be the best showcase for the man’s many talents.
On a night when protesters continued to occupy Wall Street in New York and a similar movement to Occupy Toronto was being planned, I attended a show aiming to explore our own uneasy relationship with Capitalism and corporate greed.
HARDSELL 2.0 is a show about the duality of the consumer. Ultimately most of us want to be eco-conscious, socially responsible citizens of the world but if you buy gas from Esso (Exxon Mobil) are you partly responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? If you buy clothes from H&M are you exploiting workers in sweatshops in developing countries? How complicit is each of us in enabling the destructive social and environmental practices of corporations simply by our everyday choices?
Described as a performance/lecture, this production is an evolution of the original HARDSELL. The original director, Daniel Brooks, allowed Miller to take full control of the show for this version. Self-direction is difficult for any actor, let alone an actor in a one-man show, and I thought the results in this case were decidedly mixed.
Miller essentially plays a game of Devil’s advocate with himself throughout the show by switching between two alter egos; the altruist “Rick” and the cynic “Arnie,” a creepy clown à la Stephen King’s It.
While “Rick” dominates the first half of the lecture and “Arnie” takes over for the second half, Miller’s back-and-forth bantering between the two characters often makes the piece feel like a schizoid TED talk.
The subject matter of the show wasn’t particularly new for me. If you’ve seen the documentaries “The Corporation” or “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” you’ve heard the arguments before. Consequently, the piece felt a bit like of a rehash of the same information to me.
My show-going partner and fellow Mooney on Theatre writer George agreed and told me afterward that he didn’t think the piece had enough depth and felt to him like Miller was re-telling the same common knowledge that we’ve heard from friends or read many times before.
At its essence though, the piece doesn’t so much explore the issue of capitalism and corporate greed so much as examine one man’s (Miller himself) relationship with it and in doing so he becomes an analog for the inner discussions and debates we all have with ourselves.
HARDSELL 2.0 is very much a piece still in flux and this iteration still feels a bit rough around the edges. I had really high expectations going in to the show based on what I’d seen of Miller’s previous work and perhaps it’s a little unfair to compare this new piece with well-worn and well-oiled shows like MacHomer and Bigger Than Jesus.
I thought the piece had some significant pacing and timing issues, when Miller undergoes the transformation from “Rick” to “Arnie” on stage, it’s an interesting process to watch as he applies the clown make-up and wig but it also results in a prolonged lull in the flow of the piece.
I also didn’t think the integration of the subject matter was as well-executed as in Bigger Than Jesus and some of the segments like the ventriloquist dummy and the Bono impersonation felt a bit gratuitous. I just felt like this piece lacked a bit of the polish and flow of the other pieces he presented at Factory this season.
Still, if you like shows that encourage critical thinking and may ask more questions than they answer and you don’t mind seeing something a little early on in its development process then you might enjoy HARDSELL 2.0.
- October 13 through October 23, 2011
- Shows play Tuesday – Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m., in the Mainspace Theatre.
- Each show is 75-80 minutes in length, with no intermission.
- Subscriptions range from $90 – $175. Single tickets range from $35 – $45
- Rick Miller has decided to donate his salary to his charity of choice, the Because I Am A Girl campaign
- Call the box office at (416) 504 – 9971 or go online: www.factorytheatre.ca
– Rick Miller in HARDSELL Photo by Michael Cooper