Review: The Hungriest Woman in the World (Pencil Kit Productions)

Photo of Nora Williams by Magnus Berg and Pascal Lamothe-KipnesToronto’s playwright Shannon Bramer’s multi-layered play explores the theatre community

This play can be taken in so many different ways.

That’s intentional. There’s a scene in The Hungriest Woman in the World where Julie and Nathan (Tammi Freeman and Arun Varma), shout out a series of statements hinting at what this play could actually be about. They shout it out at Rob (Christopher Sawchyn) when he comes to pick up his wife Aimee (Nora Williams), who has spent the night with Julie and Nathan after going to the theatre.

But that’s ahead of the point.

The Hungriest Woman in the World is a play about a couple who used to have this spark, but have now lost it. One half of the couple, Rob, has decided that the spark isn’t worth the work to reignite. Instead, he throws himself into his coding/design work for the company they started. The other half of the couple, Aimee, has decided that she doesn’t want to deal with her life as it is but wants to got back to the way it was before.

But that’s missing the point.

The Hungriest Woman in the World is a playful play about a play, about a play, and people who play.

Do you follow?

It’s okay if you don’t. The play tells you explicitly that it’s looking to make different people think different things through its somewhat absurd and surreal situation. I know that when I left, I thought the main story point was about how Aimee felt stifled in her relationship with Rob and this was them dealing with it. My partner said that she thought that it was about how they had lost a baby and how Aimee was dealing–and not dealing–with it. This led to a great conversation about what happened all the way home.

That’s what I think this play is trying to do, and it does it particularly well.

The strong performances carried the show. Christopher Sawchyn’s Rob is alternately confused, controlling, and unimaginative. Tammi Freeman’s Julie is bubbly, hilarious, and ‘artistic’. She is able to put a lot of humour in the smallest and simplest gesture, phrase, or expression and get’s the biggest laughs of the show.

Freeman’s comedic timing was welcome because it takes a while for this play to warm up. The first fifteen minutes of the show left me more annoyed than interested. I was uncertain why I should care about what’s going on between Rob and Aimee, and when you first meet Julie and Nathan they’re more caricature than character. Though I wasn’t necessarily invested, I was always engaged in what was happening. When the play finally does find its footing it ends up being a great show.

However, this great show has a lot of inside jokes that don’t necessarily land unless you’ve been heavily involved in a theatre community. I feel like a lot of the cracks and one liners could have been better served if a bit more of the dialogue been focused on the characters or the situation. Though I thought it could do with fewer winks and nudges to the audience I could see where they wanted to go, I personally just didn’t find it funny. However, the people sitting behind me, who were more involved in the community, laughed at almost every inside reference.

That’s what you should expect if you’re going to go see The Hungriest Woman in the World. There are a multitude of layers to the story and different people are going have different paths to enjoying this play. If you’re a part of any theatre community, you’ll probably enjoy this play a lot. If you like plays that you’re going to want to talk about, then you’ll probably enjoy this play too just maybe not as much as someone who is heavily invested in a theatre community. If you like plays that have a defined beginning, middle, and end with a series of straightforward plot points … you may want to check it out with the caveat that it’s none of those things.

But that is kind of the point.

Details:

  • The Hungriest Woman in the World is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Backstage Space (16 Ryerson St) until December 17th.
  • Shows run Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm with a 2:00pm matinee on Saturday and Sunday
  • General Admission is 25$, Students and Arts-workers pay 17$, and the Matinee is 20$ of Pay What You Can at the door.
  • For more details visit the Pencil Kit Productions website

Photo of Nora Williams by Magnus Berg