Toronto’s Lester Trips Theatre explores a dystopian future in the play Intangible Trappings
What if you got everything you ever wanted at the touch of a button? Would you be happy? Or, would you grow tired of a life without challenge or purpose? Intangible Trappings explores a dystopian future where every wish is granted, but true happiness is never truly found.
Dorothy is a young girl, the child of a futuristic society above the clouds where scientific and technological advancements allow any person to simply order whatever his or her heart desires. Consumerism is at its pinnacle, and people think little of simply throwing away anything and everything they’ve grown tired of. But she isn’t happy with her complacent lifestyle. One day, however, it literally all comes crashing down as she finds herself hurdling hundreds of feet to the ground, only to land on a mountain of discarded trash.
It’s here that her adventure truly starts, as she meets a motley crew of characters on her newfound journey of survival.
As far as premises go, I was immediately hooked after the first few minutes. Using mixed media, including screen projection, puppetry and live action acting, Intangible Trappings offers up an interesting mix of comedy, drama and scathing social commentary. The mood? Think of The Wizard of Oz meets The Little Prince with a dash of Mad Max thrown in for good measure.
There’s a lot to love when it comes to the narrative of this play. The writing is strong and the dialogue is very natural, even when the characters are philosophizing and trying to make some sort of point.
Then there’s the impeccable acting from all members of the cast. I loved each and every one of them, but for different reasons.
Nicky Guadagni was riveting as the severed head mad scientist, Noah. The ability to emote such emotion and passion with so little facial movement was truly impressive. For her part, co-writer Alaine Hutton, who played the entire supporting ensemble masterfully, showed a range of depth far beyond her young age. Being able to switch up her acting styles so fluidly within one piece wowed this theatre reviewer.
But the standout star of the night had to be none other than Lauren Gillis, who is the other playwright for this piece. The way she emoted and made use of every inch of the stage, as well as her stellar pantomime was a treat to watch. There was also a moment towards the start of the play where her character is falling to the ground and Gillis acts this out by sticking only half her body out of the curtain while flailing her arms. I got goosebumps watching it.
With regards to possible areas of improvement, there were a few moments where continuity or logic completely broke, and I was abruptly taken out of the otherwise immersive experience. The largest and most jarring instance was actually centred on a major plot point. Throughout the entire play, the main character, Dorothy, is on a quest to end her hunger by desperately trying to find something edible on the surface. However, she soon meets an insane worker who has been tied up to a pole for who knows how long. How is this person still alive? Sure, there were some characters like the jaded mad scientist where their supposed immortality was explained, but I just felt that the entire plausibility of her quest was questionable. Luckily, it’s a plot hole that’s easily addressed with a bit of tweaking to the script.
Another peeve of mine was the ending. Without writing down any spoilers, I felt like the ending came about so abruptly and was not all that significant given the grave nature of all the events that preceded it. After such an epic journey, to have it end the way it did just felt like a rushed afterthought. There was no character growth or sense of denouement. Honestly, this piece started out much stronger than it finished.
I truly saw a lot of potential in this piece. The premise is novel and interesting, the stage direction was as professional as any big name production and the acting was on point across the board. I think with a little bit of tweaking that addresses the continuity gaps and lack of satisfying denouement, Intangible Trappings has the potential to become a modern theatre tour-de-force.
- Intangible Trappings runs until September 11th at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre (6 Noble Street)
- Tickets cost $20 for general admission, and are available online or at the box office prior to showing
- Approximate runtime is 90 minutes
Photo Credit: Michael Cooper