Review: Eigengrau (Red One Theatre / Perfect Darkness Co-op)

Red One Theatre put on a fantastic show with Eigengrau at Toronto’s Lower Ossington Theatre

Desperate for any sign that the man she likes, likes her too, she – a young woman named Rose – takes comfort in an otherwise innocuous fact.

Something Rose’s roommate, Cassie, is quick to disparage.

Meanwhile, Tim, the object of Rose’s affection, has begun to fall for Cassie.

While the plot of Eigengrau has some of the same makings of a soap opera, its execution had my mouth hanging open.

It offers up four of the most believably flawed, vulnerable characters I’ve seen onstage since the revival of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly at Unit 102 earlier this year.

And though this is a play that focuses on relationships, with its trim size and visceral action – some of it a bit too naughty to repeat here – Eigengrau runs about eighty minutes. There’s not much pontificating about relationships

Instead we get characters acting blindly on their beliefs. And this is not to say the characters aren’t intelligent. It’s just that they’re totally deluded! They’re able to almost unwaveringly hold onto what they want to believe to the point of ridiculousness.

For example, Rose seduces Tim’s roommate Mark because she’s so adamantly sure that she and Tim are meant-to-be. Consequently, Mark cannot be shaken of the idea that Rose really loves him, not Tim. And Tim seems to believe he’s better than everyone and comes across as, perhaps, the most pathetic of the lot. What happens when Rose is in the room with both men is wince inducing.

But there’s humor in the pain. And – refreshingly – it’s not the type of sly humor that has characters commenting at an ironic distance on their own pain. The characters of Eigengrau don’t really make quips. The humor and winces – sometimes both at once for me – most often came from in-the-moment desperate, thoughtless, instantly regrettable things that the characters say and do.

Boy, I’ve had enough of those moments in my own life.

With so much action, and mile-a-minute dialogue, the cast does a magnificent job; particularly Helen Johns who plays Rose. There’s a karaoke scene near the end where Johns just totally bares her all. More vividly memorable than that is her collapse into dry heaving when Tim, played by Kristian Bruun, dumps her.

Red One Theatre Collective has, once again, put on a fantastic show. I look forward to upcoming productions from them.