By Adam Collier
I’m not sure how to introduce “Build A Bridge And Get Over It” (which played at the Tarragon Extraspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival).
We follow two women, Kathy (played by Shannon McDough) and Jessica (Lori Pearlstein), at the Harmony Therapy Retreat Centre over one weekend. Kathy is apprehensive of the Retreat but her therapist has recommended she attend. Jessica is there ostensibly to quit smoking, though she also mentions it’s just ‘a tune-up,’ that “I’ve been here four-times.”
They are a bit of an odd couple at first. Kathy chides Jessica for her New Age outlook (the latter for example re-arranges their cabin furniture with the intention of enhancing spiritual growth). Jessica makes working through trauma sound condescendingly simple; asserting her roommate should “just get over” the break-up of her last relationship and death of her sister.
As it turns-out though, Kathy isn’t really all that apprehensive about the Retreat (she defends – if not the actual activities, the trust participating in them implies – to Jessica after a day-and-a-half), and Jessica is a reporter that has put on the façade of embracing the Retreat to expose its practices. Both characters are exposed for who they really are, and then confront the sources of anxiety in their lives.
I really enjoyed the acting, which nicely handled the text – its most challenging scenes seemed to be approached with same earnest embrace of its slapstick montages. The text itself precedes with riviting detail at its finest moments, and contains, at first, ambivalence towards the process of therapy, which I found engaging.
The paramount moments of “Build A Bridge And Get Over It” have the characters embrace the Retreat though. So the overall tone of the play is unclear; it’s not quite satire of self-help (because therapy seems vindicated) or realism (because of the montages), and definitely not light comedy (though it never takes itself too seriously).
“Build A Bridge And Get Over It” contains elements of several different genres of storytelling; its creators (the cast, plus directing team Margaret Smith and Nicole Manek) pick-and-choose amongst them, which has allowed a tender, idiosyncratic story to emerge.