Review: A Wake for Lost Time (Elephants in the Room Collective)

Awake

A 24-hour performance of a series of vignettes make up A Wake for Lost Time at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

Twenty-four hours after I walked into the backspace at Theatre Passe Muraille, I was sitting at home wondering why the live stream for A Wake for Lost Time had just been cut off. I wanted it to keep going. Much like the viewers of the Truman Show, I was rooting for the collective members of Elephants in the Room to get through 24 hours of performing, but when the end came I was not ready.

A Wake for Lost Time was a regular ninety minute show, except it was performed for a period of 24 hours. A single cycle, the show, was made up of around 23 smaller skits ranging from humorous metaphors and fish pondering the great beyond to poignant confessions and the digestion of Faust. The theme of ritual and cycles were ever present in the skits.

The Wake started with an offering of a memory from each of the performers. After we had laughed with them about the follies of their past, Kanika Ambrose made a lovely speech convincing us to anonymously share one of our memories. Meanwhile, Moez Surani translated a different speech to French, much to the amusement of anyone who actually spoke French.

Two of the collective members, Michael Reinhart and Jenna Harris, paired up for three of the skits. Each one shamelessly and hilariously parodying a part of American history. Harris and Reinhart worked fabulously together, using each other’s energy to stay on the ball even in the 16th hour.

Each of the skits could have stood alone, but together created a complex image of rituals in our society. From the palavra of America and Russia exchanging threats during the Cold War to confessions, a dance number, and a childhood camp style follow the leader song.

The audience was offered three chances to see the show live in the theatre, once right at the beginning on Friday night, once Saturday morning, and a last time just before the 24-hour mark. If you could not make any of these, or could but wanted more, the Elephants in the Room Collective set up a 24-hour live feed.

Being a fan of live theatre I caught three cycles in the theatre, up close and personal. Being curious I watched the last cycle on the live feed. Watching the live feed made me realize how much is actually lost when you are not watching something in the flesh. Seeing it online made the experience more voyeuristic — Big Brother-esque. I know the performers were aware of this, cause I heard them talking about it when I was watching online.

The show in itself was great; it was entertaining, laugh out loud funny, and touching. The message came across. By adding the layer of duration it further drove home the point that time stops for no one. As the hours went on the performance became an act of absurdity, of dedication, and of ritual. By the end of the 24 hours the form had become the message.

This being an Olympic year, I felt that those 24 hours merited these emerging performers’ a medal. I am inclined to say gold, for their all round incredible durational skills, ability to stay funny at cycle 16, and the originality of their content.

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Photograph of Kanika Ambrose and Michael Reinhart provided by the collective.

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