Punchy, authentic, and beautifully orchestrated, Please Stand Clear (presented by House of Rebels Theatre) is a tastefully contemplative exploration of grief, suicide, and regret. It is currently playing at Theatre Passe-Muraille Backspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
“There’s no documentary on this,” states Colin (Ross Hammond), a zappy, quick-witted (potential) sociopath, to Tim (Anthony Di Feo), a suicidal physicist contemplating jumping off a TTC subway platform. Please Stand Clear‘s premise is immediately intriguing, and that intrigue is maintained throughout the 60-minute play.
Ambient TTC noises greet the audience as they enter, and remain for almost the entire duration of the performance. Sound and lighting designer Kelly Anderson knocked it out of the park on both counts, using subtle, masterful light changes to usher in each new topic of conversation and mood fluctuation. She also utilizes brilliant atmospheric sound design featuring school children, subway trains, and TTC service notices — all of which was masterfully orchestrated by stage manager Madeleine Monteleone. One of the most visually stunning moments of the show seemed to pull you into Tim’s very thoughts, exemplifying the singularity of suicide as he considers making his final decision.
In what could have become a stupendously dull and dark affair, Please Stand Clear is peppered with blasting comedy, striking a wonderful juxtaposition with the solemnity of its content. These cleverly written jabs and japes are accentuated by Hammond and Di Feo’s electric and elastic chemistry. Hammond is especially commendable in his portrayal of the wacky Colin, making questionably-strange-yet-always-purposeful movements. My eyes were practically glued to him whenever he went off on some odd tangent.
Rarely a moment of this show passed that was not brimming with life, even in silence. The rests in dialogue and thoughtful moments of pause breathed a pulse into the show, populating Tim and Colin’s interaction with moments of examination. Almost every second of the show felt organic, showcasing the strangeness of these thoroughly flawed, fascinating characters and their (questionably) happenstance meeting.
While space in dialogue was used well, physical space was also filled adeptly. Not only were the walls used as centerpieces in an integral moment of the show, but the simple set — a TTC subway bench — was used extensively. If I were to nitpick, I might take issue with the fact that the subway is not strictly “true to life,” in that the bench is not against a wall, and the characters frequently walk behind and around it. But that is a small gripe in light of an overall excellent show.
In conclusion, Please Stand Clear is a gripping, deft exploration of suicide and the contemplation of, featuring two extraordinary characters played by two excellent actors, backed by a skilled production team. You would do well to see this show.
- Please Stand Clear plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; for adult audiences.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the front row.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 7:45 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 1:30 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 6:15 pm
- Monday July 8th, 5:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 3:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 6:15 pm
- Friday July 12th, 10:30 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 2:15 pm
Photo provided by company.