A Big Fish In a Hilarious Pond*

stacy smith & jeremy webb

JEREMY WEBB is a magical word in Halifax; it brings people to the theatre. His newest play Fishing has been charming audiences since May 2012 and it comes to Chester Playhouse for a short run this summer July 31st to August 3rd.

Fishing chronicles the misadventures of Paul Fisher, played by Jeremy Webb, as he attempts to wade through a sea of bad fishes in the often depressing, destructive and hilarious world of Online Dating. The play works on two levels. The first is that Webb is very gifted at writing dialogue jammed packed with jokes in a way that doesn’t feel artificial and also, that much of the comedy comes from the interaction between Webb’s “Fish” and a multitude of zany nightmare dates played by the magnificent Stacy Smith. The second, and the aspect that I really appreciated, was the ending, which I won’t spoil for my readers except to say that Webb doesn’t just slap an obvious happy ending on his protagonist, but instead offers some real insights into the reality of finding love in your 40s after your heart has been broken, your marriage has failed and it seems as though you are destined to be alone forever.

There are certain performance elements that fans of Jeremy Webb anticipate when they attend an Off The Leash Show and Fishing does not disappoint. There is a lengthy and very silly “I’m alone in my living room and may even be hallucinating this” dance sequence, several karaoke numbers, a few popular culture references, Improv with the audience and Webb’s signature British charm woven well throughout. Like Webb’s character in Shakespeare On Trial, Stacy Smith plays a multitude of extreme caricatures and so much of the delight comes in watching her change her costume 25 times and continually coming back onstage with another fresh, dynamic and terrifically quirky character.

Smith has created some Saturday Night Live-worthy characters in this play, and it is really interesting to see Webb playing the straight man to her constant insanity. I especially loved her drug dealer club hopper and her cake baking stalker. There is a really great dynamic as well between Fish and his best friend/boss Sonia, one that reminded me a bit of the “I Love You/ Your shirt’s ugly/I need you/ Honey, what are you going to do with your hair?” relationship between Grace and Karen on Will & Grace. I think the hilarity between these two can be pushed even further to the comic limits and that Sonia can be even more biting in her retorts to “Fish” because their chemistry is apparent enough to allow for her to be meaner without ruining the sense of deep friendship.

Alexis Milligan directs this play very cleanly, with brisk comic timing, a lot of playfulness and a good use of a space that alludes to a multitude of venues simply but effectively. With the variety of characters played by the same actor coming and going, Milligan’s clear and precise direction ensures that the audience never becomes lost or confused. The other fantastic element of this show is the technology. There is one point where “Fish” fills in his profile on an online dating site and it is projected on the screen in a beautifully meta-theatrical way. It is magical and sharp and pokes great fun at an experience that a great many people have had.

If the Internet had existed when Seinfeld was on the air it is very likely there would have been an episode very similar to Fishing. Whether you’re an avid fan of Jeremy Webb or someone completely unfamiliar with his work, I urge you to check out this charming little show.

Fishing plays at Chester Playhouse (22 Pleasant Street, Chester, Nova Scotia) July 31st-August 3rd 2013 at 8:00pm with a 2:00pm matinee August 3rd. Tickets are $18.00-$28.00 and are available by visiting this website, or calling 902.275.3933 or toll free 1.800.363.7529 or visiting the Box Office at 22 Pleasant Street in Chester, Nova Scotia.

*Interview re-posted from May 19, 2012. 


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