Actor, stage and projections fuse perfectly in Concord Floral playing at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille
High school was a horror show for just about everyone. Suburban Beast’s Concord Floral, a masterfully staged ninety-minute rehash of the worst years of our lives, offers a chance to relive the nightmare in style. (Bonus: it’s set in Vaughan.)
The gist: a group of suburban high school students come to grips with the murder of Christina, a school outsider. The murder takes place before the play begins, during a party at Concord Floral – a massive, abandoned greenhouse north of Toronto. The play’s namesake hangs ominously over every conversation.
The twist: one of Christina’s friends crusades around the neighbourhood, bent on vengeance. Her actions lend the play a very tenuous thread of narrative – one that weaves into separate stories of child prodigy, loneliness, moments of ambiguity.
Other unusual plot devices come into play, with varied effectiveness – most notable are frequent allusions to The Decameron of Boccaccio, to which the play attempts to be an analogue. Whether this type of thing floats your boat depends on your willingness to view the play more as a study in abstract ideas than in character.
Concord Floral, though, is less about character than it is about mood in any case: the play’s greatest achievement is its ability to deploy Suburban Beast‘s trademark blending of media to often stunning effect. The play borrows as heavily from Wes Anderson as it does from Boccaccio, and feels like a darker version of Moonrise Kingdom (minus the Andersonian humour).
Scenes, monologues and conversations are spliced together to highlight the distance and differences between characters: resulting through the din is an intense sense of isolation. At times, these scenes are executed so well technically that actor, stage, and projected background are indistinguishable and perfectly fused.
This is an ambitious project written, staged, and performed by an extremely young cast: deserving credit even if a certain greenness bubbles through the play’s heavy subject matter. If Concord Floral has one weakness, it’s that it twists itself in a knot trying to be as good with plot, with allegory, with characterization as it is with setting scene and mood.
Lights come up for an ask-the-cast “talk back” that lasts about fifteen minutes, and you realize how young Concord’s cast actually is. Stick around only if you enjoy feeling really, really old.