2019 Next Stage Festival Review: Athabasca (Convergence Theatre)

Photo of David S. Craig and Richard Greenblatt

A bad day at work ends not with a bang but a whimper in Convergence Theatre’s Athabasca playing at the Toronto Carpet Factory as part of the 2019 Next Stage Theatre Festival.

I really want to praise the intent behind this environmental call-to-action, co-written by the two leads David S. Craig and Richard Greenblatt but I can’t.

There’s little in the whole show that stands out to me as fresh, unique, or particularly compelling.

Craig plays oil company executive Tom who is having the worst day of his life as he is being forced into retirement and his future aspirations for a consulting business crushed by a non-disclosure agreement in his retirement papers. Things only go downhill when he is confronted by the disgruntled reporter and environmental activist Max (Greenblatt) during an interview.

While Craig and Greenblatt have fun chemistry with acting that is, honestly, the heart of the show, it never lifts the plot out of its rut.

For me, Athabasca can best be summed up as two white men arguing about environmental destruction caused by oil companies and how far the world has to fall in the face of climate change while occasionally acknowledging their own privilege.

In other words, I sat through the piece–located in a real-world petroleum company office–wondering if these were the characters we should really be listening too.

Neither Tom nor Max is sympathetic. Their arguments are generic at best–oil companies can be traced back to damaging water supplies in Alberta, people use oil to heat their homes–and meritless at worse.

Adding a knowing wink to the fact that they are people at the top of the social food-chain does not, for me, good commentary make (especially when the only woman to appear on-stage is a secretary).

I really felt that Athabasca relied on me agreeing with the arguments instead of taking the time to make me care about them. Craig and Greenblatt are great actors but I didn’t really care about their point.

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Photo of David S. Craig and Richard Greenblatt courtesy Convergence Theatre

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