Review: Paradise Comics (Caitie Graham/Filament Incubator)

paradise_comicsToronto’s Filament Incubator presents Paradise Comics a play by Caitie Graham

Paradise Comics, written by Caitie Graham and presented by Filament Incubator, is a play about ordinary people, and the inherent drama in ordinary life. In a small basement in Kensington Market we get a glimpse into the heartache, suffering, and also love that might be happening to the teenage girl across from you on the bus or the woman in front of you in line at the grocery store.

Paradise Comics tells the story of George, a comic book collector who has left his family after being forced to close his comic book store. Janie, his wife, and Beans, his thirteen- year old daughter, are tasked with packing up his collection and clutter for storage. In the process, they each must face their flawed relationship with George and grieve their loss.

For me, Paradise Comics had some lovely moments and some great acting. Sarah Naomi Campbell was very strong as Janie. Her frustration with both her daughter and her husband was felt authentic. David Ross, as George, was a man at the end of his rope.

My favourite scenes featured Beans, played Sherman Tsang, and her friend Hannah, played by Maddie Bautista. Tsang and Bautista perfectly captured the both the earnestness and utter ridiculousness of early teenage conversations. Whether they are discussing a school project on the rainforest or a crush on a boy who never speaks to them, everything is soooooo important and sooooooo intensely felt. Tsang, in particular, had just the right mix of teen vulnerability and sullenness. She alternately made me laugh out loud and wipe tears of sadness from my eyes.

I also really liked the set design. Designer Jingjia Zhang uses just a few chairs and cardboard boxes to transform the empty basement. Some of the boxes become a kitchen counter and a washing machine – which features prominently in one of Beans and Hannah’s hysterical scenes. Others are repeatedly filled and dumped as Janie and Beans sort through what George has left behind.

In the end, however, the play didn’t quite hang together as a coherent story for me. While I loved the moments with Beans and Hannah, I didn’t feel like they fit with the main plot about Beans and her family. I’m not sure how they helped move the action along. And I didn’t feel like I knew enough about Janie and her relationship with George. I wanted to understand more about what had gone wrong.

But despite its flaws, I’m glad I saw Paradise Comics. The playwright and the actors are on to something good. I just wish it were a little more fleshed out. In the program, Filament Incubator says its intent is to produce young and underrepresented emerging artists. I’m interested to see what these artists will do next.

Details:

  • Paradise Comics plays until December 3, 2016 in the basement of 56 Kensington Avenue.
  • Shows run Tuesday – Sunday at 8:00pm
  • Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online here

Photo of Sherman Tsang and Maddie Bautista by Zachary Parkhurst