Customer service. I’ve spent far too many years post graduation asking “how can I help you?”. I’ve done clothing retail, technical support, and telesales enough to fully empathize with the struggle of working with the general public. So when I saw that Poorhouse Players would be putting on How May I Hate You? during this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, I had to see it.
The performance at the Robert Gill Theatre at the University of Toronto functions like an orientation session for the new employees (the audience) of General Corporations Inc. The orientation session is presented as a series of vignettes on topics like upselling, affirmative action, and sexual harassment played out on stage by Kelsey Johnston as Stella, Jenna Naulls as Jacqueline, and Kano Wilkinson as Marcus.
Humor is really the best vehicle by which to examine the world of customer service because really, when you’ve had to live that life, what else can you do but laugh? There are definitely laughs in this production though I found that a lot of the laughs came from a level of uncomfortable awkwardness. In particular the customer support interview full of tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek unintended racism and the office tryst.
The awkwardness, I feel, came from the actors who took a while to get comfortable in their roles. This is their opening performance and I can sum it up to first day jitters. I felt that once the ball started to gain speed that Wilkinson displayed a lighthearted ease with his character that I gradually warmed to. However, I did feel that Naulls never did warm to her role and many of her lines were delivered with a stunted stiffness that would fade gradually but then return with the next scene.
I also felt that there was quite a bit of missing potential here. With the audience being the new employees, I felt that there should have been a level of audience participation that was never actualized. Upon entrance we were all asked to create name tags which I thought meant that we’d be called on during the show but this wasn’t the case.
The set is minimally bare with pieces and props added in view of the audience appearing haphazard and thrown together. Paired with a few of the music cues that didn’t quite hit the mark, it came off as messy.
I see a lot of potential in the script, idea and performance that I’d love to see the company expand upon but right now, it’s sitting on the rough side.
How May I Hate You? plays at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College St, 3rd floor near College and Beverley.)
Audience advisory: This performance contains coarse language and mature content.
July 04 at 05:45 PM
July 05 at 07:30 PM
July 07 at 09:00 PM
July 08 at 04:15 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM
July 12 at 02:45 PM
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Kelsey Johnston, Jenna Naulls, and Kano Wilkinson by Rachel Llanera