Reality Theatre (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre), now playing at the SummerWorks Performance Festival, begins with a fantastic framing device; Akosua Amo-Adem brings her own chair to the front of the stage and proceeds to watch the audience with great interest.
Popcorn bucket in hand, she appears the physical embodiment of a GIF signifying drama going down on the Internet. She coolly and hilariously surveys latecomers desperately trying to find a seat in the packed house (a strong argument for featuring the show in SummerWorks, which allows latecomers, instead of Fringe, which does not.) Things only get better when a second character enters the stage and is disconcerted by her hungry gaze.
Unfolding from this intriguing opener, the show asks questions about our obsession with “Reality” culture and how it dovetails with our reliance on technology, with themes of mortality, relationships, and delusion. Much like the Internet, it doesn’t totally live up to its potential when it comes discussing of these themes, instead presenting a sort of sketch comedy sandwich with three very tenuously linked pairs of extended satirical skits. However, the sheer glee on display makes up for any missed connections.
The sketches have a vibe reminiscent of Toronto’s Dame Judy Dench sketch troupe, with lots of manic energy and the biggest hits involving outlandish, almost surreal declarations and setups. There’s a man who’s sold his soul for eternal almost-youth – and his supportive friend Bud; an actress who approaches her small Broadway role as an inanimate object with frightening intensity; a recurring examination of Internet anxiety.
The most successful humour comes from these off-the-wall concepts, and the in-jokes about self-absorbed actors also played well to the opening-night crowd. The set, with its multiple columns in perspective, adds to the off-kilter feeling.
Unfortunately, there’s also humour that’s a little too grounding; most of the topical humour, such as jabs at Twitter and Starbucks, falls solidly into the “tired observation” category. The good news is that the jokes are more the style of the former than the latter.
Also good news is that the talented cast can sell just about every line. Andy Trithardt’s hapless Bud is a great straight man, unflaggingly affable, and, as I said, I could watch Amo-Adem do nothing but eat popcorn and be entertained. It’s Krista Morin, though, who really steals the show as both a modern-day Dorian Gray and eager Broadway bit-parter. She fully embraces the different delusion of each part, and it’s glorious.
I feel like Reality Theatre is a lot of concentrated whimsy looking for a target, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not sure it’s that much more than the sum of its parts, but it will keep you watching.
- Sunday August 6th, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
- Monday August 7th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
- Tuesday August 8th, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
- Thursday August 10th, 9:30pm – 10:30pm
- Saturday August 12th, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
- Sunday August 13th, 8:00pm – 9:00pm
- Sunday August 14th, 4:45 pm – 5:45 pm
SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.
Picture of Krista Morin by Brynna Reilly