Generational Politics and Human Relations in “Entitlement”
As a writer, I might not have taken the risk that Sugith Varughese has taken with Entitlement: writing a play about writing has rarely been known to be a successful undertaking. As Vargughese’s main character Anish points out, though – in a charming scene about script structure that probably inspired half the audience to go home and download Scrivener – scripts are only ever about one thing. Entitlement, now playing at the Summerworks Festival, is about the gap between how we imagine ourselves and how others perceive us, and it’s a good exploration of the story.
The show takes advantage of a sparse set and some deeply colured lighting as an undemanding frame in which to display the talent of the actors. In one corner of this ensemble is Karen Robinson, a Toronto stage powerhouse, playing the ambitious dean of a fictional college who has learned ever so many educational buzzwords in her race to the top. She hires her former lover Anish (Sam Khalilieh), a barely-working scriptwriter, to come and teach Screenwriting in her program – a job he doesn’t really want, teaching a course that many of the students don’t really want to take. Newcomer Christo Graham completes the triangle as Dylan, a sullen Millennial whose consumer-model rants about his dissatisfactions (“I pay your salary!” he shouts at his professor, “And I didn’t pay for an F!”) prompted groans and laughter from the audience. The cast is very strong, and their chemistry together is top-notch.
As the play progresses, we begin to see beyond the caricatures. Each of these people is forced to face the reality of how they’re seen by others, and then we get to see how this new information does or doesn’t effect them. It’s well-done, and director David Ferry shows his talent especially in helping the actors manage the timing of the work, letting the deft script land well much of the time.
The only significant flaw in the production on opening night was the excess of emotional energy and high-volume conflict, and I think that will settle out when it’s not an opening-night-packed-house situation. Graham, as the youthful Dylan, should be setting the emotional median of the show, so we can watch Anish overreact to things (he’s volatile and a little pissy for an older man) and the Dean strictly control her reactions to them. If I had to guess, I would say that, in his excitement, he came in too hot at first and it threw the balance off. It’s an easily solvable problem, and I think even more nuance will show through when the emotional landscape of the show has more variation in it.
In all, Entitlement hits a lot of interesting notes – first impressions, self-knowledge, personal flexibility, talent, manipulation, and forgiveness. The 90 minutes moved along smartly, assisted by interstitial music composed and/or arranged by the multi-talented Graham, though I would have liked Varughese to have taken a little more time with the ending. All-in-all, though, this is clever and interesting.
- Entitlement plays at Theatre Passe Muraille (19 Ryerson St)
- Show times remaining: Sunday August 11, 1:30 pm, Monday August 12, 4:00 pm, Tuesday August 13, 6:30 pm, Wednesday August 14, 9:00 pm, Thursday August 15, 1:30 pm, Sunday August 18, 4:00 pm
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Photo by Sugith Varughese