RED BILL is a balls-to-the-wall piece of theatrical mayhem. Presented by Red Bill Productions for the Toronto Fringe Festival, this tale of sex, drugs and money is sometimes hard to follow, but easy to feel. The plot involves three people caught up in the nasty consequences of their bad lifestyle choices.
When I took my seat, it was like walking into the aftermath of a party gone terribly wrong. There are worn clothes strewn about. In a bathtub, a half naked woman writhes in agony. Opposite her is a strung out dude doing tai chi to the pulse of trance music. She’s caught in red light, he’s bathed in blue. William MacDonald’s direction is a perfect juxtaposition of torment and calm.
What follows is a simultaneously sexy and grotesque whirlwind of drug-addled drama. The plot involves lost money, bogus pills and a missing condom. Even now, I’m not entirely sure I understood exactly what had happened during the awful night before, but it doesn’t really matter. The play is a visceral thrill. It grabs you by the jugular before you have a chance to think about much of anything.
I felt as if I had happened upon a bit of real life where those involved aren’t particularly concerned whether I know what they’re talking about. The script, written by Michael Eisner (who also performs), is very stream-of-consciousness. It perfectly captures the ramblings of people coming down from one high and starting another. And the dialogue is often—purposefully—lost in the constant trance music. I felt as if I was foraging for scraps of text, studying the animalistic body language, and creating my own context for it all.
There is one particularly suspenseful and atmospheric bit of sound design that stood out. Whenever there is a knock at the door, the sound is an ominous beat that seems to come right out of the constantly pounding music. It’s both exciting and disturbing, like most of what happens here.
The performances (just like the set) are messy and raw. Eisner is endearing as he tries, in his fidgety way, to bring some Zen to his high-drama existence. Danka Scepanovic is a hypnotic presence, both vulnerable and predatory, as she crawls and stalks around the stage. Jimmy Makris is the one weirdly comforting presence in the midst of all this mess. Physically, he towers over the other two, he’s angry as hell and his body language betrays his capacity for violence. And yet I regarded him as a voice of reason. Maybe it’s simply that he’s the only one not stoned out of his mind.
This play has been described as a “rollercoaster ride” and I would have to agree. Emotionally, it’s often hard to know where these characters are coming from. But, as I stated earlier, the production is a visceral marvel, and struck some part of me that is more primal than emotion.
RED BILL plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Pl, near Bloor and St. George)
July 04 at 01:15 PM
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 08 at 04:45 PM
July 09 at 09:15 PM
July 10 at 05:45 PM
July 11 at 07:30 PM
July 12 at 11:30 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Jimmy Makris, Danka Scepanovic, Michael Eisner by William MacDonald