It took a little while for me to fully submerge myself in the world of Melissa James Gibson’s play [sic], but once I became accustomed to her quirky characters and David Matheson’s wonderfully off-kilter staging, this production stirred every creative fibre in my body and held me emotionally captive for the duration of the play. [sic] plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space as part of the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival.
[sic] was originally produced in New York by Soho Repertory Theatre and then was developed by Steppenwolf Theatre and Roadworks Theatre in Chicago. The play takes place in an apartment building in New York and focuses on three neighbours, Babette, Frank and Theo, whose lives have continually intersected since they all met through Frank’s ex boyfriend Larry and the dynamics between the three characters are wildly complex, tightly woven, brimming with contradiction and subtly and are fascinating to watch.
Gibson is a brilliant playwright. Her command of language and her ability to speak both to the immediate concerns of her characters, while also commenting on the larger issues of society as a whole is nothing short of remarkable. Although Babette, Frank and Theo each have their own distinct personalities and cadences and rhythms to their speech patterns, they all speak with a precisely literary vocabulary which is quite delightful. Sometimes the characters’ speak in tandem or their words overlap and this all suggests that these three individuals share so much of their lives with one another that each one’s affectations becomes appropriated by the other two. There is brilliant use of wordplay throughout, in Frank’s constant repetitive tongue twisters to his learning, via cassette tape player, to become an auctioneer and the very shrewd social games that they have developed together and discarded. There is so much depth and poetry in this script, that it’s likely one would continue to discover connections and illusions each time the play was read.
Daniel Matheson directs this play beautifully, with each of the characters crammed into a small box meant to signify his or her apartment. The characters stand awkwardly close to one another as though they are two trains about to smack into one another head on, and they often move together in one big clump, clinging to one another with quiet desperation. Matheson’s direction is vividly executed by three astute and gifted performers.
Rob Bird plays Frank with a sweet vulnerability and racing conscience as his loyalty continues to teeter between his friendly devotion to Babette and his erotic fantasies concerning Theo. Frank is the most ostentatious of the three and Bird portrays his quirkiness with such awkward charm that he becomes the most endearing of the three. Sarah Dineen plays Babette, a novelist who is constantly mooching off her friends. Dineen is able to exude confidence as her character, while still suggesting that Babette may not know what she wants or how to get it. Daniel Krolik is fantastic as the tightly-wound musician, Theo, whose lack of artistic inspiration coupled with his obsession with Babette lead him to prowl around his apartment in urgent passionate fits of desperation.
[sic] is one of the most interesting new plays that I have encountered in the last year. I find its ingenuity and the way Gibson plays with language and weaves it tightly into the relationships between her characters extremely inspiring. The Fringe Festival is a wonderful opportunity for new Canadian plays to be developed, but it is also refreshing and essential to be able to use this venue to bring exciting new plays from elsewhere to our audiences in Toronto and [sic] is the perfect example.
[sic] plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Avenue) at the following times:
Wed, July 7 Noon
Fri, July 9 5:15 PM
Sat, July 10 10:30 PM
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.