Theory (Public Radio and Camera Assembly) – 2010 SummerWorks Review

By Adam Collier

Theory is a new play in performance as part of SummerWorks. It is a joint presentation of Public Radio and Camera Assembly and SummerWorks. The show runs at the Lower Ossington Theatre.

The action begins as the house lights go down. A woman tells us she has begun an online forum for her course on film theory. The forum will be anonymous, uncensored and you – referring now to her students (the house lights have gone down completely, and we are in her classroom) – will moderate the discussion.

Theory pivots around the threads of postings on the forum.

Before characters discuss (and discuss one another’s) impressions of film, short montages of the work under review are projected on a white wall at the back of the stage. I thought these montages were fantastic.

And speaking in terms of a technical production – the blend of film (and the editing that is behind it), photos; and the flawless use of space on stage – Theory is marvelous.

The action picks-up momentum when the topic of the forum turns to race and sex, after screenings of “Birth of a Nation” and “Baise Moi”.

The ensuing discussion threads are no more mature, and don’t seem to make any less specific reference to the professor and her class. But, somehow – for a reason I didn’t fully get – the professor takes issue with some of the postings at this point.

One user on the forum also begins to post his or her own film clips in reply to threads. Discussion of the meaning of those short, provocative films overshadows the discussion of the original work under consideration.

The consequences are, I thought, pretty fascinating. A lot of questions emerge about the nature of contemporary communication. Is there, for example, a correct way to interpret casual communication that uses a rich medium like film and photos? As the professor demonstrates, the temptation to become borderline obsessive watching and re-watching communication for all its meaning is (almost) irresistible.

But then –maybe the potential threat of the postings didn’t fully register, or maybe the professor’s capitulations to shut down the forum didn’t quite resonate – I found myself oscillating between feelings of frustration and tension, particularly as the male characters lecture (her partner is condescending, while her department head comes across as a administrative capon) to the professor on what she ought to do.

Theory is a marvelous technical production of a play that explores a highly relevant contemporary issue. It gave me a lot to think about, and I love that. So I’d recommend it.


– Theory is playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue, north of Queen)

– Theory was written by Norman Yeung, directed by Joanne Williams, and features performances by Sascha Cole, Martin Happer, Earl Pastko, Roger Bainbridge, Bobbi Jaye, Darrel Gamofin, and Zahir Gilani. The stage manager is Carolyn Mykytyshyn, the set was designed by Camellia Koo. Kristina McNamee was the lighting and projection designer. Slim Twig designed the soundscape. Jenny So was the assistant set designer, and Allie Marshall was the costume designer.

– Performances remaining include: August 13th at 7:00PM; August 14th at 4:30PM, and August 15th at 11:30AM.