Theatre Gargantua presents Avaricious on stage at the Passe Muraille in Toronto
Greed is a concept that seems to haunt our society constantly. With the rise of wealth disparity to the constant debate about the place of corporations and their role in society’s guidance and development, the subject of greed is fine fodder for theatrical exploration. Theatre Gargantua’s new production, Avaricious, dives into the material with a great deal of glee and creativity.
Avaricious is inspired by an actual true story of a billionaire in Mumbai who demolished an orphanage to build a 47-story residential home. The production follows five characters and their interactions within a 97-story house built by the Atlas Corporation. This takes place during a period where an oncoming flood promises to destroy humanity and leave nothing but those who can find shelter within the walls of the garish residence.
A personal admission to begin with, I’m not a big fan of movement pieces so when Avaricious began with a (well choreographed and performed) dance routine I became somewhat unsure about what I was getting myself into. But very quickly the show transitioned into a more traditional style of theatre, interspersed with movement sequences to establish the swiftly approaching flood and general passage of time. I also appreciated that occasionally what can only be described as a Greek Chorus appeared to add meta commentary to the general plot, something the Fine Arts student in me greatly enjoyed.
The entire ensemble did a fantastic job. In particular, Michelle Polak who played a double role as both the Atlas CEO’s orphan assistant and mother in two very entertaining and powerful roles that someone going into a more theoretical deconstruction of the performance could have a field day with. Credit to Michael Spence as well who not only wrote the play but also performed in the ensemble in one of the more entertaining roles, a desperate swindler who cons his way into the building to ride out the flood.
The set design was rather impressive and played well with the multi-disciplinary style of the production; the stage was almost constantly covered in cardboard boxes that were used for everything from stairs to chairs to, well, boxes. Often the movement segments would be fascinating to watch just to see how the stage was adjusted to set the next scene.
Overall, Avaricious is a smart, well performed and designed production with a lot of laughs and some very clever satire mixed in. There are moments where I wondered if the laughs overshadowed the serious nature of the subject matter, but in the end, when the world is coming to an end and hope is hard to come by, sometimes you just need to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
- Avaricious is playing at The Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue).
- Performances run until November 21.
- Showtimes are 7:30 pm Wednesday through Saturday
- Tickets are $25, $21 for students, seniors and arts workers
- Tickets can be purchased online or through the Arts Box Office at (416) 504-7529
Photo of Patrick Howarth, Pam Patel, Michael Spence and Michelle Polak courtesy of Michael Cooper