Naught Theatre presents Something is Wrong at Toronto’s Pia Bouman Theatre
When Something is Wrong (playing at the Pia Bouman Theatre) works, it has some insightful and interesting things to say. At its best, it marries harsh but interesting politics with beautiful and significant movement, creating something far more appetizing and interesting than these component parts alone.
When it works.
Within the Somethingverse, a group of cultists are convinced that something is wrong. They perform elaborate rituals, interrogate one another, try to piece it together. But having found nothing, they unilaterally–acting as one–decide that nothing is wrong. They must abandon this futile search. They must stop asking questions. They must retreat to a position of comfort and security and stop paying attention to the universe. And in lockstep, they do.
Except for one of their number, Thespis, who maintains that something is wrong. He does not know what, but he will not stop searching; not when tormented by spirits and spectres; not when offered comfort and security and succour; not even when placed in a bullring, awaiting the inevitable goring. And what does he find?
He finds some moments of enlightenment.
Sequences dealing with an adventure through a vast desert (building into an equally compelling sequence about societal blindness), with parallels between sex and cannibalism, and with how societies simultaneously fear and yet objectify–perhaps even desire–the insane, are fascinating, well-composed, and show the clear fingerprints of choreographer Kelly Shaw–who has her company in very fine form.
But just as often, I found I was left watching an acting exercise which somehow made it into the show. Or listening to a monologue the length of which would put Ayn Rand to shame. Or watching the actors claw viciously away at ignorant sheeple and other soft-as-jelly targets. A brutal dramaturge could have cut half the play’s sequences without losing anything important. (And what good is a dramaturge who won’t be brutal?)
All this being said, there are outstanding performances in this piece. Heather McNiece takes what was destined to become another dull, plodding monologue and transforms it into one of the highlights of the show, her character simultaneously threatening and enticing. But the real standout was Margaret Hild as Iris, who embodies entropy and desire and the secret, hidden things that creep around the periphery of our collective vision. Hild’s part is complex and convoluted–mature, childish, playful, professional, and always aware that she is the agent of chaos on this stage–but she absolutely nails it.
There’s a Fringe-length show at the core of this piece. It’s an interesting idea, the company are more than equal to its challenges, and at moments I found the show both compelling and worthwhile. But in between these peaks, I found myself tuning it out, chastising it for taking indulgences (we get it! he’s a snake! it’s all biblical and metaphoric and stuff! you don’t have to make him hiss after every line!), and focusing on the performances, rather than the script, because the quality of the actors is the only thing to save this show from itself.
- Something is Wrong plays nightly at 8:00 PM through August 3rd, with a 2:00 matinee on the 3rd.
- All performances at the Pia Bouman Theatre, 6 Noble St.
- Tickets are $15, cash-only at the door.
Image of Josh Johnston and the company provided by Naught Theatre.