Review: Beirut (Borat Gump Productions)

Beirut explores 1980’s disease hysteria, loyalty.

The word Mike and I kept repeating to each other before, during, and after seeing Beirut was “BRAVE”.

It is shows like Beirut that keep me interested in theatre. Garett Bullock and Mitra S. Bullock make their theatrical debuts as Torch and Blue.  Toronto’s cozy Unit 102 Theatre is the perfect place for their first appearance.

Both Bullocks are incredible. For most of the performance, everyone in the audience was engaged and on the edges of our seats. They both have an authenticity and an energy that is addictive.

Beirut was written by Alan Bowne. Bowne died from AIDS complications in 1989 at the age of 44.

The play is a science fiction piece that contemplates jails, or ghettos, for people infected with ungodly diseases. In this case, the confinement area is named “Beirut”. Imagine the Lower East Side, or Scarborough, fenced off. It’s dirty, and it’s nasty. It’s real.

Some communities are gated with rent-a-cops, others are gated with mental ignorance. I think the point of Beirut is trying to break down those barriers.

The premise is that Blue sneaks into the confinement territory to be with her lover, Torch.  I thought Mitra was exceptional. Torch and Blue basically break down The Berlin Wall. They unite North and South Korea. It’s a great story about the human spirit defying imaginary lines on a map.

When I recall Mitra S. Bullock, all I can think is “Wow”. Look out for this woman to set every stage she walks on aflame! Her performance reminded me of Sandy Duarte in Blood.

Beirut “feels” like the bygone era, the old hysteria of the 1980’s. It’s trendy, almost necessary, if you want to remain in good standing with your fellow hipsters, to hate that decade.  Absolutely incredible art came out of that era. It’s a breath of fresh air, although a difficult pill to swallow at the same time, to relive and be reinvigorated by that spirit. Beirut takes us on that “trip”.

It was an amazing decade, and it was a terrible decade. We all had money and there were jobs. On the other hand, there was Reagan and there was acid rain. Creativity was everywhere, but we were all scared to death of AIDS.  Seminal American artist Lou Reed released the brilliant New York in ’89. Beirut incorporates this artifact to great effect. If you haven’t listened to that record yet, do yourself a favour, check it out.

The set is basic, nondescript.  It is up to the audience to conjure up whatever nasty place, whatever compost heap we can. It’s there that daisies grow. Beirut grows some darn fine daisies.

I’ve devoured a lot of William S. Burroughs’ writing, popped a lot of his stories. If you like engaging, challenging theatre that makes you think, you will love Beirut. Did I mention that Mitra S. Bullock is sensational? I strongly recommend this show.

Certainly, it isn’t for everyone, but I plan on seeing it for a second,or even a third time.


Beirut is playing at Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street) until August 5th
-Tickets are $20-$25, Tuesday is pwyc
-Tickets are available online or in person (cash only)