Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre presents a new play by Canadian playwright Michael Mackenzie
The title of Coal Mine Theatre‘s current show, Instructions (To Any Future Socialist Government Wishing to Abolish Christmas), keeps it’s cards close to it’s chest. As an audience member with no prior knowledge, I had no idea what I was sitting down to watch. As the show cleverly and gradually unfolded, I was constantly realizing that even when I thought I knew what I was watching, the tables would turn. Instructions kept me guessing as it revealed calm to be chaos, and peeled back the eternal layers of finance and personal relationships to reveal their loaded centres.
Instructions focuses on the relationship between Jason, a successful and crude motormouth financier, and Cass, an intern math wiz with an unidentified behavioural disorder, played by Ted Dykstra and Diana Bentley respectively. It pits them against the chaos and confusion of the 2008 Lehman Brother’s collapse, in Jason’s confined high rise office space.
The show leans heavily on it’s two actors and the script, as all other production elements were minimal. The set, designed by Steve Lucas, was a bit stark in it’s bright colours and hard edges, but sufficient. Props and sounds were extremely minimal, with the exception of Jason’s headset phone which came up often.
Luckily these two actors were exceedingly capable of taking up that responsibility. Dykstra brought an air of desperation and rapid-fire wit to Jason, making evident the gravity of the external financial situation, while maintaining his cocky, selfish, top-of-the-heap attitude. Bentley brought enormous humanity and surprising humour to Cass, which countered her ventures into mathematical analysis, creating an engrossing struggle that was extremely compelling.
The script takes these two on a journey full of wit and surprises. It is impeccably paced, unfolding their relationship slowly and with subtlety. Maybe some audience members expected the twists as they came, but personally most of them were surprises to me. Looking back now, I can see how carefully the plot was set up throughout the show, and the effect is a beautifully crafted and devastating ride.
Instructions (To Any Future Socialist Government Wishing to Abolish Christmas) is a compelling tale of the chaos that bubbles beneath the surface, both in the financial world and in the relationship between Cass and Jason. I would highly recommend checking out this Toronto debut production at Coal Mine Theatre.
- Intructions is playing at Coal Mine Theatre ( 1454 Danforth) until June 19th
- Tickets are $35, with a $25 rush options (tickets available 10 minutes prior to the show, subject to availability) and can be purchased at the box office or online
- Shows run Tuesday through Sunday at 7 30pm
Photo of Diana Bentley and Ted Dykstra by Michael Cooper