Sunny Drake presents his hilarious, neurotic and touching show No Strings (Attached) in Toronto
On St. Patrick’s Day, I was lucky to avoid the green-tinted debauchery by going to see No Strings (Attached) at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. I handed over my tickets and was absolutely delighted when I was rewarded with a small white rose … It was fake, but it was still sweet. I held my “token of romance” as I walked through the doors toward the cabaret stage, when the white rose was taken from me and tossed into a basket. I was given a lecture about restraining myself from the trappings of romantic tokens. I looked down at a button in my hand, which said: “1 DAY Romance Sober”.
The audience held their sobriety chips closely as the lights dimmed. Writer and star, Sunny Drake ran up to the stage. From the first moment I saw him, I could feel his energy. It was a one-man show, but Drake had the stage presence of a chorus line. I couldn’t look away. Drake began, nervously, his confession as a romance addict at a Romance Anonymous meeting. He tries to acknowledge his need for romance-sobriety, but he can’t seem to stop mooning over other men, especially his ex-boyfriend.
Drake performs an introspective investigation of his love-life. Why does he want romantic love? Why does he get jealous? How are some people just better at dating? Drake tries to reach the answers, but tends to stop short of actually hearing them. The answers have the potential of being too raw and too damaging to think about. When anyone asks “Why is no one dating me?”, no one actually wants to be handed a list of all their flaws.
Drake dances around the idea that there is someone specific to blame for a relationship ending. There seems to be no direct answer for what kind of relationship is “good”. He mocks the traditional monogamous romantic relationships, even though he’s continuously drawn to it. He praises the freedom of casual and polyamorous relationships, while consistently mentioning the complications of jealousy.
There seemed to be no perfect answer. Instead of viewing this as a warning against monogamous romance or polyamorous complications, I saw this as Drake’s personal journey. A hilarious, neurotic, and touching journey.
Drake gave such a brilliant performance. He switched between laugh-out-loud funny, to vulnerable in a blink. I was often caught off guard, so that my smile shrank into a cringe within seconds. Drake could make your stomach squirm when he desperately tries to get back with his ex-boyfriend. It was pitiful, but so relatable. In moments of deeper vulnerability, like discussing his trans identity or his history, the whole room went quiet. He was mesmerizing.
His multi-dimensional performance was paired with a multi-media performance. The interactive video design was created by director Gein Wong, Laura Warren, Alex Williams, and Hisayo Horie. Drake interacted with videos of romantic movies, to express his idealization and obsession with romance. He sometimes interrupted his confession to text his sponsor, and the texts were displayed on a projector for the whole audience to see.
The shining moment of the show is when Drake interacts with himself, or at least a projected video of himself on a blank mannequin. His conversation with himself is so well-choreographed, I kept forgetting that he was nudging and arguing with a video. This interaction is a must-see. I’ve never seen a multi-media performance look so natural and effortless.
As a notice, this show requires an open mind. Sex and politics are openly discussed. Relationships go beyond the constrictive box that most romances cover. Drake talks about polyamory, open relationships, trans* relationships, and more. It’s wonderful to hear about types of relationships that go beyond boy-meets-girl-and-they-live-happily-ever-after. If you’re only used to those stories, go into No Strings (Attached) with an open-mind. You’ll be better for it.
I really enjoyed this show. It was very entertaining and creative. Drake made me cringe, laugh, and sigh. He was absolutely wonderful to watch.
- No Strings (Attached) is playing until March 26 at the Cabaret Stage at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street).
- Shows run from Wednesday to Saturdays at 8:00pm. Saturdays have a matinee at 2:30pm.
- Tickets are $20 at regular price and $15 for students/seniors. Matinees are PWYC. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
Photo of Sunny Drake by Jeremy Mimnagh