A Ticket on the 4 is a series of vignettes inspired by Charles Bukowski playing at Toronto’s Aluna Theatre
The big selling point of Peacock Productions’ A Ticket on the 4 is its inspiration, namely that of Charles Bukowski. Drenched in alcoholism and that gritty desperation that was so representative of his writing, A Ticket on the 4 is enticing for theatre fans and American literature buffs alike, and director Jennifer Lindsay deserves a great deal of credit for facing the sometimes difficult subject matter head on, even if the play occasionally loses its footing in execution.
A Ticket on the 4 is a bare bones production, using the intimacy of the Aluna Theatre with efficiency — utilizing just a few chairs, a bar and a few extraneous props to establish the world of the racetrack that the most of the narrative takes place in.
The protagonist, Hank, spends most of the play interacting directly with the audience in a series of short vignettes, sharing his whiskey-soaked observations of the world and interacting with the occasional fellow traveler who steps into his path.
From his frustration with crowds to his dichotomous relationship with women, Hank is unafraid to bare himself to the audience, warts and all, and sometimes it’s difficult to relate to his misanthropic worldview. Nevertheless his willingness to share with the audience feels like a privilege and the intimacy of Bukowski’s writing creates a closeness with Hank that drew me in, getting me invested in the character and his slightly-detached relationship with the world.
This intriguing dynamic was a boon through most of the play, but during the vignette “The Other Bar” in which Hank meets Mary-Lou, a woman he thinks is the girl of his dreams, the intimacy that was shared with the audience is suddenly taken away and projected towards Hank’s new interest. It’s an interesting emotional response I had to the piece, feeling like someone was getting ditched on a date for someone more attractive, which goes to show how powerful the play’s script is in its personality. Unfortunately feeling jilted by a play doesn’t help viewer investment and I found myself losing interest in what was happening onstage.
The most unfortunate result of this was that the following vignette was the play’s powerfully effective climax, and had I been as fully invested in the events as I’d been before Hank’s new flame showed up I’m sure I would have been far more impacted by the events. Instead, while impressed with the scene and work by the actors I was only able to appreciate it from an objective position instead of that visceral reaction the play obviously wants from the audience.
Overall, the booze soaked, desperate world of A Ticket on the 4 is an enticing world to visit for an hour, but an hour is just about the most one can handle before the desire to get some air becomes overpowering.
- A Ticket on the 4 is playing at the Aluna Theatre (1 Wiltshire, studio 128)
- Performances run until July 26th
- Showtimes are 8:00 PM & 10:00 PM (July 17-19 and 24-26)
- Tickets are $16
- Tickets can be purchased at the door and online at Universe
Photo of Adrien Alexander Benson by Jake Zabusky.