Review: Oasis Love (Sisyphean Productions)

Johnny Salib’s one man show on love and loss played at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto

Oasis LoveWhile some people seem to fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat, others seem to never forget the sting of a romance gone wrong. And in particular, it is often our first love that we hold on to most dearly. Oasis Love, written and performed by Johnny Salib, follows the story of young man, Damien, who struggles with coming to terms with the end of his first real relationship, as well as the emotional baggage he can’t seem to let go.

It’s a touching, heart-felt piece filled with charming highs and gut-wrenching lows.

What’s most notable about this one-man production is the strength of its writing. Whether it was vividly describing the first date to chronicling the couple’s last fight, Salib demonstrated a real talent for writing vivid slice-of-life prose that beautifully put the audience at the very heart of the action, and all this is brought to life with his very likable and relatable performance.

Salib is a great showman, demonstrating precise comedic timing and engaging effortlessly with the audience. He’s also quite the musician, treating the audience to pretty decent musical renditions of Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” and Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts”.

But it’s the character development in particular that makes the material so strong. Salib has done a fantastic job telling a realistic tale of lovers, including the ups and downs that all couples experience.

Damien is quite fragile, constantly insecure about his looks. It’s within this framework that most of the narrative takes place, with Damien constantly second guessing his “worthiness” of dating his “dream boat” boyfriend, Jason. The audience is taken on the emotional roller coaster of the couple falling in love: from their romantic first date pretend camping along the riverside to their tumultuous breakup over the phone.

But unfortunately, it’s at this point where I felt the production really fell flat.

Here we are, following this amazingly genuine love story that jarringly comes to an abrupt end, with Salib choosing to end on a song whose lyrics didn’t really provide any real sense of closure to what had proceeded it. Like most of the audience, I didn’t actually realize the play had ended until Salib broke character to explicitly tell us it indeed had ended.

I mean, if there’s any greater sign that a play’s ending needs a bit more polish, I can’t think of it.

Given the fact that the entire production lasted only about 30 minutes, I definitely believe there’s room for Salib to flush out the ending a bit more and provide a more proper denouement or at least a bit more closure. What was really missing from this play was the answer to the question “so what?”.

You’ve created this character and have run through a sequence of events. But there has to be a point to it all. How has the character grown? What did the character learn from the experience? Does the character still believe in love or has he become irreversibly jaded? I feel like these types of questions should have been addressed during the ending to give the audience some sort of takeaway, and to provide the play itself with some sort of purpose.

While my criticism may seem harsh, it’s only because I was so in love with the work that Salib has created and I feel that ending the show the way it did greatly diminished the magnificent narrative and character development that made the majority of this piece so compelling.


Photo of Johnny Salib by Fonna Seidu