by Leanne Milech
Toronto-based Why Not Theatre has nailed it again – “it” being contemporary, experimental, physical theatre of the highest order; this time in the form of I’m So Close. . ., a fresh re-working of the company’s I’m So Close It’s Not Even Funny, which won a SummerWorks Festival Spotlight Award in 2008. The revamped I’m So Close. . . is currently running at The Theatre Centre as part of the Free Fall ’10 Festival in association with Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage.
Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, I’m So Close. . . centres around Steve (Troels Hagen Findsen) and Stella (Katrina Bugaj), a young couple living in a world of technological “connectedness”. Steve is an ambitious inventor who’s got the next big eco-friendly product in full production swing, which takes him all around the world on business jaunts as poor Stella is stuck at home watching documentary after documentary to entertain herself.
Although Steve and Stella are connected by Steve’s virtual assistant, Raj (Ravi Jain), who is stationed in New Delhi, and they have telephones, iPhones, computers and every other technological tether, the two struggle to retain their love and intimacy in the midst of Steve’s hectic work life.
A common tale in today’s modern day and age. At times, the e-dialogue between Stella and Steve is so realistic that my play partner for the night had tears in her eyes remembering her own tormented long distance relationships. In my days as a corporate lawyer stuck at the office at all hours, I had conversations over text message so similar to Stella’s and Steve’s that I almost jumped out of my skin and on to the stage to let the couple know that they are not alone – we all suffer from disconnected e-talk.
Jain, Bugaj and Findsen, who co-created the play, are not only brilliant writers and creatives, but they are talented, dynamic actors. The physical energy it took to pull off this performance, which has multiple characters but only 3 actors, left both myself and my play partner exhausted – and we were just observing! To boot, all three players move with such grace that they sometimes seem more like dancers than actors.
Gina Scherr’s lighting design adds to the show’s magic – her “sunlight” is so natural and soothing that I half expected to look up and find the theatre ceiling parted, making way for the setting sun’s rays.
I’m So Close. . . weaves together modern technology, neolithic-era archaeology and a love story, all the while questioning the purpose of human life. There are artful layers of meaning to this piece of theatre – all you have to do is show up and get ready to peel them back.
As my play partner said after the performance, “On the scale of bad to good, there’s good, and then there’s off-the-chart radiant.” I’ll finish her thought by stating the obvious: I’m So Close. . . is radiant.
– I’m So Close. . . runs until Saturday, April 3, 2010 at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen St. W.)
– Shows run as follows: Fri., March 26 @ 7 p.m., Sat., March 27 @ 9 p.m., Sun., March 28 @ 2 p.m.; Tues., March 30 – Sat., April 3 at 8 p.m.
– Tickets are $20 (there are discounts for students, seniors, groups and equity) with Sunday’s March 28 performance priced as PWYC
– Tickets are available by phoning the box office at 416-973-4000 or online at www.theatrewhynot.org
Photo of Ravi Jain, Troels Hagen Findsen and Katrina Bugaj by Mina Mikhail