Review: The Situationists (Cabaret Company)

by Adam Collier

In mid-April, the Cabaret Company produced The Situationists at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.

In the blurb I read on The Situationists, three things grabbed my attention: “principles,” “current issues,” and “three characters.”

What this said to me was that The Situationists might have characters engaging with one another on how and why we are, where we are, right now.

Additionally, because the playwright, Sky Gilbert, resides in Toronto, my hopes rose that The Situationists might be explicitly set in Toronto.

In its first half, I was struck by hints that the action might be set in Paris. Lots of wine, lots of smoking, and one of the characters, Jacques – played by Gavin Crawford – has a French accent. Was he real? It kept reminding me of this bit character on The Simpsons: a clumsy waiter that has, what he describes as a “Clouseau-esque,” fake French accent, before, in that episode, he trips over a chair and falling out a window.

Real or not, I thought the accent was an interesting artistic decision, adding texture to the sound of the dialogue.

On reading the program at intermission, it occurred to me that maybe the accent was a nod to the origins of the philosophy to which the characters subscribe.

Though the setting was vague, that turned out to be fine. As the dialogue in Act One often concerns larger trends; how, for example, the world is going to be taken-over by robots.

I found myself leaning forward, rubbing my chin. On my own I don’t think I’d tell someone that I thought our overthrow by machines was inevitable. But hearing someone else saying it, I found myself agreeing.

To me the premise that we have to acknowledge and disrupt large trends like that was engaging.

The dynamics between the characters were the thrust of Act Two more than in Act One, and were so boldly and fully explored that it could stand alone as one-act play, I thought.

This second act was laugh-out-loud funny, and seemed more genuine in the nature of its confrontations. It was, for me, far more unexpected in its plot decisions than Act One.

The direction by Mr. Gilbert features some cool, tense stage pictures. What I mean is, the way Mr. Crawford and Haley McGee – playing a character named Lise – move in relation to one another, helped pull me in. And Gil Garratt – playing a character named Evon – performs a couple acts of exhibitionism that had the audience members around me tuning their heads to keep eyes on him.

The set designed by Andy Moro, an immaculate apartment in muted whites, really made Sheree Tams’ costumes pop out. Again, making for some great stage pictures, I thought.

I’d reveal more, but to go from here would be a spoiler. And, in an unusual but highly necessary precaution, I agreed not to reveal anything more.

Although the run of The Situationists is over, based on this work I’d consider seeing more from Cabaret Company.