Review: Crawlspace (Videofag)

Karen Hines takes on Toronto real estate nightmares in her play Crawlspace at Videofag

Karen Hines CrawlspaceRenters, you’ll stay put after watching Karen Hines’ Crawlspace, a horrifying and enlightening story of home ownership playing at Videofag in Kensington Market. Inspired by a true Toronto real estate nightmare, Crawlspace will keep you from browsing MLS listings again.

It’s the kind of story you want to talk about as soon as you get home: “You gotta hear about Crawlspace — the mice, the holes in the wall, the piece of the house that went over the neighbour’s property, the deceitful flipping.” 

I’ve already recounted the gory details to several friends. And yes, it does get gory when Hines goes into what was inside her home’s crawlspace. Hines makes you smell and see things in your mind that are repulsive, not only physically but also morally when you imagine the human being whose objective was to mislead.

I was struck by countless things about this performance: the non-personalized Ikea-type living room in which we sat, the unravelling of the details of this expensive disaster, the way it made me question my dream of home ownership, and the purposeful deception that our homebuyer was victim to.

The 15 audience members sat around a white, unoriginal coffee table. It was decorated like a home staged property, stylish in a catalogue-way: white furniture, wallpaper with a large motif, three candles on the coffee table. (When staging a home, you apparently set up your accessories in threes.)

When Hines tries to blow out a candle only to learn it’s lit by a battery-operated artificial flame, we awkwardly giggle. The fire is fake, just as her new home is a fake. Her property lacked authenticity from the floorboards and closet to the professionals who were supposed to advise her.

“Evrthng hs bn dn” was my favourite line in Crawlspace. (Realtors may take out vowels from their descriptions so they can fit in more selling points.) Hines would say “Evrthng hs bn dn” (well, poorly done) with a straight face, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Other comic moments involved a mouse-trap, pest control intervention, “artist” math, and mention of a man in a hazmat suit.

I usually want to crawl under the floorboards whenever any actor points me out in the crowd. Not in Crawlspace. Hines will sometimes address individual audience members in a hilarious, condescending way, and fortunately we are not expected to answer back. Our wordless interaction with Hines felt totally comfortable. I think my primary sound was gasping.

My friend was not able to join me at this memorable play, as the 15 seats in the living room were already taken. So whatever you do, don’t expect to show up the door to purchase a ticket. It’s possible that all remaining performances are already sold out.

If it comes back to Toronto, I will see this play again and bring my friends, especially the ones who are interested in home ownership. Caveat emptor, buyer beware.


  • Crawlspace is playing until September 27 at Videofag (187 Augusta Avenue)
  • Tickets $30 ($25 Arts Workers / $15 Students)
    Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite-CRAWLSPACE
  •  VERY LIMITED SEATING (Maximum 15 per performance)

Photo of Karen Hines by Gary Mulcahey