A Risky & Terrific Take on Death at SummerWorks
There are lots of different reasons to pick a show to see at a theatre festival like SummerWorks. I decided to see How to Disappear Completely because I was already seeing something else at Factory Theatre on Thursday and I didn’t want to have to move from one theatre to another. (I didn’t say they were all great reasons…)
It might not have been the best reason but it was a terrific decision. Itai Erdal’s solo show deals with a difficult subject – his mother’s death – in a way that lets us laugh more than we cry. I am so glad that I saw it.
Erdal begins the show by saying that he isn’t an actor. He wanted to be a documentary film maker but became a lighting designer. In 2000 he found out that his mother had cancer and was only expected to live for another nine months. How to Disappear Completely is the story of that time.
He took thousands of feet of film and hundreds of photos. He interviewed his mother and his sister and his best friend in quite a formal way. His intention was to make a film, instead he uses the interviews and photos as a backdrop, projecting them onto a large screen that has black curtains which let him use the full screen or just half of it. He can also control whether or not there is any background. That’s it for the set, he uses lighting to control the mood.
He takes little breaks in the story to tell us about lighting and the lights that he’s using. The first couple of times that he did it I found it interrupted the flow for me but as the show went on Erdal’s lighting asides became part of the whole.
His interviews were in Hebrew so he does a simultaneous translation while they’re playing. It took me a little while to adjust my ears so that I was hearing Erdal and not the Hebrew but once I got used to it I was fine.
Telling the story of your mother’s death is risky. You need to hit the right note. You don’t want it to be really depressing and you don’t want it to be too lighthearted. Erdal hits the right note. He has a charming stage presence and there were times that I felt as if he was talking just to me. Of course parts of the story are sad but there’s also a normalcy about them. Even when you’re dying you have to go on living until you die and it can’t all be deep discussions.
Erdal is a terrific story teller, at the beginning of the show he says that loves telling stories, and while he may not think of himself as an actor he is definitely a performer. I loved How to Disappear Completely and highly recommend it.
- How to Disappear Completely plays at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street)
- Show times: Thursday August 8, 5:30 pm; Friday August 9, 8:00 pm; Monday August 12, 5:30 pm; Tuesday August 13, 8:00 pm; Wednesday August 14, 3:00 pm; Friday August 16, 3:00 pm; Sunday August 18, 12:30 pm.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-915-6747 and at the Lower Ossington Box Office (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 of Itai Erdal and Mery Erdal by Emily Cooper