Review: Subway Stations Of The Cross (Soulpepper)


Soulpepper Theatre presents Ins Choi’s latest one-man show Subway Stations of the Cross in Toronto

Ins Choi, current Soulpepper Resident Artist who is well-known for his smash hit Kim’s Convenience, mounts this one man show as part of Soulpepper‘s Studio Series. In Subway Stations of the Cross, Choi plays the character of a proselytizing homeless man who lives in a subway station and spends his time expounding on Christian mythology, interspersed with nuggets from Greek and Roman mythologies and pop culture references. 

Choi based this play on a real hour-long conversation he had with such a man, but its unlikely the original inspiration had Choi’s facility with language, song and imagery. The play doesn’t carry a story arc, impart any wisdom, or provide any emotional catharsis. But it gives Choi an outlet to indulge in some excellent wordplay, he sings very well accompanying himself on a ukelele, and he creates some striking visuals using only a few props.

Wordplay is really the core of this show: the whole monologue is spoken word poetry, using alliteration and rhyming to bring classical references together with modern ones. If you’ve ever wondered how to create a sentence that used “Mormon”, “George Foreman“, “Gordon Korman“, and “doorman”, or if that’s just something you’d like to hear, this show is right for you. Choi is also an accomplished vocalist and it’s a pleasure to hear his voice transition from a gruff Tom Waits into a soaring, angelic hymn.

Subway Stations of the Cross has three mini-acts, divided by darkness and the sound of the subway, each adding a new prop to Choi’s arsenal. He begins with a lamp, which is for much of the show the only light onstage. It is on a wire so he can dangle or swing it as well as hold it in his hands. He only turns it off as part of a terrified ritual he enacts each time a subway rushes past. After the first time he turns his lamp on again to find he has been delivered a loaf of bread. In the final section the same thing happens to provide him with a bottle of red wine. Each object gives him a starting point for a new ramble, as well as material used to create a few simple, striking pictures onstage.

There didn’t seem to be much point for the subway setting other than this. It seemed ironic, hopefully intentionally so, that a work set in a transit station doesn’t really go anywhere. The show doesn’t even give a clue as to whether this character does have some mystical insight or is, as usually assumed when encountered on real public transit, experiencing mental illness. But for a very short show of only forty-five minutes, it’s certainly entertaining enough.


Photo of Ins Choi by Nathan Kelly