Review: Crawlspace (Soulpepper)

Soulpepper presents Crawlspace, Karen Hines’ dark comedic play about homeownership in Toronto

If I ever had any regrets about my resignation to never own property, Karen Hines’ Crawlspace has effectively banished them. In her dark tale of home ownership in Toronto, playing at Soulpepper, Hines relates real estate horror that is all too true.

In the small space, a bearskin rug under a steamer trunk topped with a shag throw blanket and candles, backed by a rustic wooden desk and chalkboard, the setting is almost cozy. The coziness, however, is a facade, just as it was in the tiny house Hines bought for herself in 2006. As she paces the house’s floor plan laid out on the stage, and as she and her assistant add information to the chalk drawing of the floor plan that stands behind the desk, we in the audience began to feel the claustrophobia and the unease of living in a tiny place with serious hidden faults.

This set is a simple yet powerful grounding for Hines’ to draw us in to what could be a mundane story, if it weren’t for the catastrophic impact on her life, and her skill as a storyteller. Her voice is melodic and measured, drawing me into her world as she suffered in a sweltering summer surrounded by the stench of a dead animal no one was able, or willing, to find.

As one might expect from someone with a clown background, Hines’ delivers her experience with arch humour. Her mimicry of the the tone of MLS listings was delightful and made me laugh every time she chose to deploy it. Other comedic elements, such as the naming of random neighbourhoods to evade liability, also were judiciously used throughout the show, keeping the story tightly wound. No detail, however absurd, got away too far way from the crux of the issue. Every word was concise and deliberate,  and Hine’s movements were accordingly precise.

This crux, the point of the story might be: don’t play the real estate game around here unless you have strong knowledge of both construction and manipulation, along with a high tolerance for large financial risk. But it is also something deeper: what do we need to make us feel at home? What defines stability and how does that change as we age? How do we identify whatever critical mass brings us to the point where the things we have own us?


  • Crawlspace is playing at Soulpepper, 50 Tank House Lane until April 15
  • Performances run Monday through Saturday at 8 pm, with 2 pm matinee on Saturday April 15th (no evening show that day)
  • Tickets range from $32 to $49
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-866-8666, and at the box office

Photo of Karen Hines by Gary Mulcahey


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