I Am Very Far, playing at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre as part of this year’s SummerWorks festival, combines video, music and a team of actors to generate a cohesive impression of trauma, loss and memory as it affects the central character coping with the sudden death of his father. But like the themes represented, I Am Very Far loses direction halfway through, as narrative regresses into a blur of fragments and the audience feels very far, indeed, from what is happening on stage.
I Am Very Far begins with a black and white video collage of organic phenomena which pulsate and flash over five actors writhing and reaching towards an unknown combatant. The ethereal visuals are heightened by Chris Ross-Ewart’s live cello playing, which adds a quality both melodic and eerie.
The central character, Dan, played by Philip Furgiele, is a twenty-something university student from Niagara, who describes the difficulties he’s had recalling (and therefore retelling) the events surrounding his father’s passing. Images which support his confusion appear and disappear behind him as if his thoughts were dissolving the moment he expressed them.
The other actors take turns representing the conflicting voices in Dan’s life – those of insurance and hospital representatives, a distant friend and even a loose physical rendition of the broken processes of his memory. Every few minutes, the actors break character and run through lists of clichéd memories – possibly as they referred to Dan, possibly in general – and they regale together until the next vague vignette.
Despite the loose and sometimes confusing nature of I Am Very Far, there were some interesting moments. En Lai Mah drew similarities between physical and mental limitations as he stumbled around on the tops of his feet. Lorna Wright and Bahareh Yaraghi convincingly represented the inappropriately efficient corporate, commercialized pressure of organ donation and life insurance purchase.
My date, Jenna, felt that the tangled storyline distanced her from the characters and prevented her from empathizing with the central character or his struggles. We both left the theatre pondering the brevity of life, and the lived experience of dying.
Show times: Friday August 9, 7:00 pm; Saturday August 10, 4:30 pm; Tuesday August 13, 4:30 pm; Wednesday August 14, 9:30 pm; Friday August 16, 9:30 pm; Sunday August 18, 2:00 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