Ajax (por nobody) (Hothouse Theatre) 2012 SummerWorks Review

The day after Ajax (por nobody), part of the SummerWorks Performance Festival, I am still having some difficulty organizing my thoughts about it. I’ll be honest: I had a strong reaction, and it wasn’t terribly positive. Post-show, I said to the friend with whom I have seen the show “Well. Unless that was a show designed to make me feel hopeless, disconnected, and mournful it’s a failure.” By morning I think, well? Perhaps it was. And even still, I am not sure I feel any better about it.

Alice Tuan‘s script, a foursome in white and blood (or similar-looking substances) for two girls and two boys, displays the machinations and peregrinations of a “social hour” set in some mildly dystopian future or alternate present. Various people are related to one another, or might have been, or may or may not be married to each others fathers; there may or may not be drugs in the mix, some of these people may or may not have had sex before. They may or may not like one another. It’s a purposeful muddle, I understand, I just don’t understand why. It doesn’t seem to trouble the status quo, so much as… tell it a fart joke.

The show also seems to pre-suppose an idea about “casual” sex or hookups, that we all somehow regularly or secretly find them shameful, disconnected, and disordered. Coming from a community of sex-positive queers, and having no such feelings at all about arranging sex dates with relative strangers, I felt pushed out of the frame from the outset. Tuan has based a “tragedy” on something not everyone experiences as tragic, here.

I also didn’t understand the relative prudishness of the production. After so much was made of the production as “unstageable” before now, the flopsy prosthetic penises on the boys and the pantyhose (with panties over) on the girls left me feeling like “unstageable” was nothing more than a publicity stunt. And as the play wound to its difficult conclusion, the prop phalli created at least one moment of just plain eyerolling.

Nevertheless, the performers certainly committed to it. They mauled fruits and spread legs and faked orgasms and argued with themselves and each other as though they were the ensemble cast of the best play in the world. The production designers did a very good, very interesting job with the scenic and technical elements. There is plenty of praise for the builders and makers of this piece; I’m not sure how they could have done anything more with it.

There’s one thing, though. There at the end, just before the Exciting Conclusion, when Annette is asleep and Alma makes a choice – it’s marvelous. The only authentic, truthful-feeling moment in a play full of preening and posturing and fake bodily fluids. Ultimately, though, not worth the other hour and eleven minutes, at least not by my lights.

Details

  • Ajax (por nobody) plays at Theatre Center (1087 Queen W)
  • Remaining performances are Tue. August 14, 4:00 PM, Wed. August 15, 7:00 PM, Sat. August 18, 2:00 PM, and Sun. August 19, 9:30 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at ticketwise.ca (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.