What does it mean to be in your 20s in the 2010s? Writer Rose Napoli offers an earnest response to this question at the Toronto Fringe Festival with Theatre Rhea and Neoteny Theatre‘s joint production of Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains. Napoli stars as Lucy alongside Jakob Ehman’s Bennett in this story of two ambitious 20-somethings who meet at a party and later spend an evening together, having intimate conversations and eating popsicles.
The first thing I noticed about Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains was that I didn’t necessarily like the characters. In fact, I found them rather unlikeable, which I actually loved about the play. I’m always a sucker for shows like HBO’s Girls where the characters are awful but they’re so relatable that you have to sympathize with them. That’s exactly what this play’s characters offer. I didn’t like them on the surface, but I found their flaws endearing.
Let’s get into their flaws. Lucy is a bit of a loner. She doesn’t have many friends and is the kind of person who would show up to a party just to complain about parties. “Parties make me feel like my friends are at another party,” she said. I was initially annoyed, but that line won me over. Napoli plays Lucy with the exact dry humour and wit necessary to make an unlikeable character entertaining.
However, Lucy doesn’t compare to the deplorability of Bennett, who immediately begins attempting to pick up Lucy at a party in the least charming way possible. On the surface, I dislike guys like Bennett. He seemed like the average white guy who complains incessantly about society and how he doesn’t fit in and how that’s unfair. By the end of the play, he’s still the same but there are a lot more layers that Jakob Ehman effectively brings to the surface.
These characters are real. They have rich personal histories, traumas, and recognizable character traits that both the fantastic writing and the actors’ sublime performances make crystal clear to the audience. I saw myself in each of them, and often understood both of their sides in every argument they had. They both have passions, for Lucy it’s music and for Bennett it’s chocolate, but they’re weighed down by past traumatic events. The play dissects how these events affected their psyche, decisions, and traits in a manner that felt organic.
I could sit in the audience and see Lucy and Bennett as actual human beings. Throughout the play, they talked in the language of pop culture, having long discussions about which actors would play themselves in a movie, such as Ryan Gosling or Marisa Tomei. This made the play feel grounded in the real world, as I constantly use pop culture to relate to the world and connect with others.
A major question looms over the entire premise of Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains. Throughout the play, I asked myself, “Should these two people be together?” The answer is no. Though it’s a delight watching them interact, they are still two unhappy people navigating their way through their 20s.
The play changes course to focus on their endeavours. Lucy is debuting a new song while Bennett is recording himself making chocolate for his blog. A lesser play would have focused solely on their relationship, but Rose Napoli understands that a more pressing issue for 20-somethings in the 2010s is career. More than anything, they want to succeed in doing what they are most passionate about.
Watching Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains, this is something I related to on an intimate level. I have been a writer since the second grade, and have never strayed from that dream. It’s the thing that keeps me going, and I’m glad to see this feeling be reflected on stage.
- Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Smoking, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible, with some tight cornering. Accessible seating is in the front row.
- Thursday July 6th, 09:30 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 03:15 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 08:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 05:45 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 10:15 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 01:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 08:45 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 02:15 pm
Photo of Rose Napoli and Jakob Ehman by Kyle Purcell.