Review: The Four of Us (Foxglove Theatre)

Photo of Michael-David Blostein and Šimon Mizera, Christopher Fulton, Mike RudermanFoxglove Theatre presents a tale of envy and ego on stage in Toronto

Having made its off-Broadway debut in 2008, Itamar Moses’ hit play The Four of Us is now in the capable hands of Toronto’s new indie theatre company, Foxglove Theatre, at The Attic Arts Hub

This comic drama is a tale of envy, ego, and the stress that success can put on friendship. Two aspiring young writers, David (Šimon Mizera) and Benjamin (Michael-David Blostein) seem only to have a relationship of convenience, obligation and curiosity. Having been ‘frenemies’ at summer camp, their adult companionship now seems only to exist so that they can check in with what the other is up to in their career, and then compare.

We first find the pair in a restaurant at one of these meetings and the tension is evident. When Benjamin reveals that he has landed himself a six-figure book deal at 24, needy, insecure David barely conceals his envy in the guise of concern and friendship, knowing that his own playwriting career is struggling. Benjamin in comparison is obnoxiously self-assured and does little to convince his friend that his time will come. This teeter-totter of one-upmanship does not let-up throughout the evening.

As we travel back and forth tracing the path of their relationship it is clear that Benjamin has always meant a lot more to David than David does to him, and both Mizera and Blostein really sit in this dynamic well. But as David’s career flounders in regional theatre and Benjamin’s star soars, the gap between them widens and tolerance and respect for the other is tested.

This is a story that rings true with any young creative, or working person in general; trying to feel proud of our friends and contemporaries whilst wondering when it will be our turn to succeed. In this sense the story writes itself, but I didn’t find anything particularly unique. It is 95 minutes (without an intermission) of talking heads, funny and real in the way that our everyday human conversations are, but outside of career sparring, David and Benjamin don’t dive into their interesting life details beyond the surface of romance, memories, and how one has always been cooler than the other.

The play is rumored to be autobiographical, about Moses and his good friend, the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, and it sounds like a word-for-word transcription of any and all encounters they shared but without enough drama. When you are living this life the story had to be heightened, or told in such a way that I can be surprised, or that I can question and reflect on my own experiences. This didn’t really do it for me. It was, however, told very stylishly with a moody original score by Tomas Andel, flashbacks and scene-changes performed by actors (Christopher Fulton and Mike Ruderman) playing the actors, and an interesting conclusion, but I wanted something else.

However, this is not to say that it wasn’t funny, or that the actors didn’t do a great job with the material. They were both naturally very funny and physical, charming and likable. Blostein was sly, and cutting, and obnoxious enough that I found him insufferable and laughable in equal measure. Mizera had a bouncy, anxious energy where, towards the end, he was so impassioned that he literally burst through a windowed door that was not set with prop glass. He shattered the actual door!

I get it; we are all working hard, and we are all gifted, and some people find success through slogging and talent and luck, and others will always be working towards it, hoping that it’s their turn next. Whilst Moses’ play didn’t alter my way of thinking about this, the style and skill of Foxglove Theatre’s production will ensure their success as a promising new indie theatre company in Toronto.

Details

  • The Four of Us is playing until September 26, 2016 at The Attic Arts Hub (1402 Queen St. East, 3rd floor).
  • Show run Saturdays and Sundays at 8 pm (including September 26), with a matinee Sunday September 25 at 2 pm.
  • Run time is approximately 95 minutes.
  • Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.
  • Audience advisory: This show contains a brief strobe lighting effect as well as herbal cigarette smoking. The venue is not wheelchair accessible.

Photo of Michael-David Blostein and Šimon Mizera, with Christopher Fulton and Mike Ruderman provided by Foxglove Theatre. 

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