2013 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Post Eden (Suburban Beast)
Post Eden, playing at the Factory as part of the Next Stage Festival, is a multi-media show set on the aptly-named Neighbourly Lane in Richmond Hill, Ontario. This is a real street, and the program claims that while Post Eden is “a work of fiction from the imagination of the playwright” (Jordan Tannahill) it also is “inspired by, and incorporating verbatim excerpts from, interviews with five families” who actually live there.
The story involves a family where the husband (Sean Dixon) and wife (Linnea Swan) have broken up, and the husband moved four doors down so as to still be close to his daughter (Sascha Cole.) This sounds like a plausible scenario to take place in the real suburbs. It also involves a boy who may be a coyote (Kevin Jake Walker) and a dead dog (Lindsey Clark) who is very articulate in English and strongly wants to be buried in a place where her soul can be free. This seems more likely to be the work of imagination.
But there is ambiguity in the space between realist and surreal, and that’s what gives the show its charm and helps make the multi-media work. When the show begins the film projection display action appropriate to the dialogue being spoken onstage. That breaks down over time and the film becomes a counterpoint to the dialogue and onstage action, giving us subtextual clues, atmosphere and foreshadowing.
The set was very well designed to facilitate this breakdown, as the performers move from using microphone stands on raisers flanking the film screen to inhabiting the stage with so much action that even involves some nudity.
Sometimes I wished that the content of the story was as gripping as its presentation. Something about the presence of posthumously talking dogs and werecoyotes made me want higher stakes than just a commonplace failed marriage. There was a minor aspect of apocalypse, but only in the worry that the activation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) might cause a blackhole. Since the LHC started colliding particles in March of 2010, and the world hasn’t ended yet, that speculation didn’t add any particular foreboding or urgency to the show.
The dynamic between the separated spouses is very honest and the scene where they disastrously try to get together again is charming and chuckle-worthy. Post Eden is also a great example of a show where the film and the onstage aspects dance together in well-choreographed steps. I would like to see this show done again, much the same except with the characters having something to lose that they haven’t already lost.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for all shows are $15 for Evening Performances (7:00PM and after start time), $12 for Afternoon Performances (6:59 or before start time) and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information for Post Eden are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo of Lindsey Clark by Jacklyn Atlas