Seven Siblings Theatre’s Fever/Dream is a random workplace comedy playing in Toronto
When the illegitimate son of a business tycoon is suddenly handed the reins to his father’s multi-billion dollar enterprise, he must prove his worth despite having zero business acumen and virtually no real world experience. Having been kept as a secret prisoner in the company’s basement for most of his life, this would-be heir to an empire must learn not only how to run his father’s company, but also how to have normal human interaction with the outside world.
Currently playing at The Jumblies Ground Floor, Fever/Dream is a wacky, tacky look at corporate ladder climbing, unbridled ambition, bureaucratic nonsense and, yes, even love. To say this play is random, would definitely be an understatement.
Throughout the production, spectators are treated to an entertaining combination of traditional acting, dramatic pantomime and even an impromptu karaoke serenade. Just when you thought the narrative would take a serious turn and delve into a particular character’s moral dilemma, the script would completely go off the rails into a non sequitur comedic bit. This kept the performance fresh, interesting and delightfully unpredictable.
Playwright Sheila Callaghan has created a truly remarkable theatrical work that – while illogical, irrational and absurd to the nth degree – accurately captures the pull-your-hair-out folly that often goes hand-in-hand with corporate culture.
Given such strong material, you need a strong cast to bring it to life.
For the Toronto run of this production, I found the strength of the acting to be a mixed bag of exceptionally strong performances and ones that could use a bit of improvement.
I absolutely adored Geneviève Trottier as icy cold Stella Strong, the play’s archetype of a power-hungry, career-driven ladder climber. My standout star of the night, Trottier gave a compelling performance that effortlessly transitioned between icy rage and endearing insecurity, perfectly hitting the diverse range of emotions that falls in between.
I’d also like to call out Dylan Mawson for his fantastic portrayal of Fred Clotaldo, assistant to the CEO. If you compare how much younger he looks in his poster picture on the Seven Siblings Theatre website to his aged appearance in the show, it’s like night and day. And while much credit should obviously go to the props and costume lead, Kate McArthur, Mawson was more than convincing in his role as the older, behind-the-scenes guardian of both the company’s and CEO’s well-being, even capturing the subtle mannerisms of a man who’s getting on in years.
I also found Peter Jarvis’ and Mladen Obradović’s performances to be exceptional. Watching Jarvis’ character transform from a spineless ‘yes man’ to a courageous man who would do anything for love was definitely one of the highlights of my night. For his part, Obradović was quite strong as a CEO who must inevitably face his own mortality. Obradović’s take on the character was the human touch that held the story together.
But, with the good, there’s sometime the bad as well. I found it unfortunate that some of this production’s performances were plagued with overacting. Just as I found myself starting to really get into the premise of this play, I’d find myself subconsciously having to tune out long stretches of monotone dialogue. (Here, I’m using monotone in the broader sense to mean no remarkable difference in the way things are said, or lines are delivered.)
Sure, it’s great to give an energetic performance, but speaking each and every line the exact same way – no matter the emotional context – does not make for compelling theatre. Even some of the more ‘serious’ scenes would often came across as cheap slapstick humour. This was definitely a case of less is more.
To be fair, the majority of the cast were young and somewhat unseasoned, so I’m sure that with just a bit more experience and coaching they’ll all become staples in the Canadian theatre scene. I saw a lot of potential out there on the stage, but even potential needs practice.
While the Toronto run of Fever/Dream was far from the most polished show I’ve seen this season, the strength of its script and the stellar acting of some of the cast cast made it a rather enjoyable experience. With a little bit more polish and a bit more emotional range from some of the actors, I feel like this iteration of Fever/Dream could easily become a production that lovers of wacky, out-there comedy will flock to.
- Fever/Dream is playing until Sunday, May 31st at The Jumblies Ground Floor (132 Fort York Blvd.). If you’ve never been to this venue before, a word of caution: Google Maps will send you to the wrong location. The Jumblies Ground Floor is not located right at the intersection of Fleet Street and Fort York Boulevard, as Google Maps indicates – it’s actually north of Fleet Street, on Fort York Boulevard which curves east of Bathurst. Click here for an accurate map that’s found on the Seven Siblings Theatre website.
- Tickets cost $25 for general admission or $20 for students/arts workers (with ID), and can be purchased online or at the box office prior to show time. It’s a pretty small venue, so be sure to keep in mind that seating is limited.
Photo provided by the company.