Review: My Funny Valentine (Zee Zee Theatre)

Zee Zee Theatre presents the award winning My Funny Valentine at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto

Originally from Vancouver, Zee Zee Theatre has brought their award winning play My Funny Valentine to Buddies in Bad Times, providing an intriguing examination of the 2008 murder of Lawrence King.

Exploring a subject as complex and delicate as a school shooting is a very difficult task and playwright Dave Deveau has approached it in an interesting manner; with monologues from various fictionalized characters (all performed admirably by Conor Wylie) talking about the murder and how it has affected them.

The play makes an effort to create less a cohesive narrative and more a discussion about the topics raised by King’s death, from gun violence to homophobia to gender expression, the play asks the audience to hear out the varied characters and at the end of the day make their own decisions and judgments on those involved, from an English teacher who becomes heavily involved in the activist reaction to the shooting, to a fellow student who only heard the gunshots.

The subject matter is perfect for a company like Buddies in Bad Times and the intimate nature of their space lends itself well to the very personal stories being told onstage. Although my date, Samantha, found the actual set to feel rather confined. A circle of loose paper and other bric-a-brac surrounding the actor creates a barrier between the audience and the performance, giving a sense of detachment to the whole thing. Nevertheless the varied and nuanced performances from Wylie bring the characters to life and generally help overcome this separation.

One thing that I personally find a bit frustrating is the fact the script doesn’t ever actually name any of the parties involved. Not only that it doesn’t even name the town it takes place in or the school. On the one hand I appreciate that it creates a sense of universal possibility, that it doesn’t actually matter who it happened to or where it happened but that something like this could happen anywhere. On the other hand, I did find myself regularly asking for more information, a name or a location, so I could give myself a sense of place and real people.

Even as I write this review I find myself struggling to refer to the source event because it only feels like a touching off point, and the fictionalized aspects of the characters only lends itself to that resistance. These conflicting emotions, while they do affect my immersion in the production, are something I appreciate though, I find myself asking questions about myself and my expectations both in the subject matter. For me personally, this is a powerful experience to challenge myself so much in simply how I watched a play.

It’s a challenging play and definitely not one for those looking for a frothy night of theatre, but there’s no doubt that My Funny Valentine is a play that will engender discussion, whether on your own or with someone else.

Details:

  • My Funny Valentine is playing at Buddies at Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street).
  • Performances run until January 21, 2018.
  • Showtimes are at 8 pm with 2:30 pm matinees.
  • Tickets are $20 – $30.
  • Tickets are available at the door, online or via phone at 416-975-8555.

Photo of Conor Wylie provided by the company

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *