“You think the play is going to go pleasantly in one direction, and then it goes in the complete opposite one.” I’m paraphrasing what the technical team at Montreal Improv Theatre Espace B told me about the play that I was about to sit down to. They couldn’t have been more spot on.
Building on the success of “White Noise”, a collaboration piece between Canadian and German University students at the 2015 SIPA Festival, Evan Harvey and Calla Wright bring us “One Too Many”, produced by Thunder Tangent. After its presentation at the 2016 Mainline Gala for Student Drama, it’s back for a tour of both Montreal’s and Edmonton’s Fringe Festivals this summer (which is exciting news considering I would definitely see it again!)
There are less fortunate news for both of our beloved performers’ livers, however. This personal post-dramatic piece about friendship, worry, substance abuse, and alcohol is so simple and at the same time goes so deep into a societal issue that is at the heart of popular culture today. Be forewarned: the front row is a splash zone – but I strongly suggest abandoning your self-consciousness and settling into a seat there as a little dash of water or alcohol on your person would only make this performance more meaningful.
The show starts out as what some would call “a dream job” as our two performers take the stage and begin by letting us know that what’s in their plastic bottle of “Gordon’s London Dry Gin” is in fact, if not gin, a very strong alcohol. They both take their first of what will be many more shots throughout the show. “Wow, getting drunk throughout a performance, now that seems like my idea of fun!” – a thought I’m sure at least one person in the audience had at this premier. Even if you aren’t drinking with them, their interactive games, powerful image-based anecdotes, and painfully spoken poetry put you in nearly the same mood as the methane that disturbs the neurotransmitters in your brain had you been “sipping Bacardi like it’s your birthday”. It’s definitely not as fun and light hearted as I thought at first, but I wasn’t able to take my eyes away from the action on stage.
The most impressive thing that struck me, after watching the show, is how absolutely simple and effective the piece is. The stage is bare save for a few things on a table that you would associate with a night of partying (i.e. solo and mini solo cups, gin, cans of beer, a sketchbook, and oddly enough a half carton of eggs). The floor is covered in protective plastic matting for any spillage, and there’s a gray bucket in front of everything. I thought originally that this would be in case of vomiting. It’s not. They wear neutral clothing unclouded by color or patterned design. They’re very close friends, but their relationship could be more or less than that. Their portrayal of character is essentially themselves, but is also universal and could stand for anyone.
Instead of trying to force a concept onto the audience through a cathartic release of emotion or tension in the limbs, Harvey and Wright are informal and completely vulnerable throughout the entire show. The energy leads you to believe that this piece is less something that both partners want to do, and more a truthful message that needs to be shared. The points that they made and personal connection to the issues dealt with were proven not only through what they said, but through the dynamic images that they created that simply but powerfully complimented them while they spoke.
At the end of this figurative night, you sit with Harvey and Wright, having followed them through the phases of drinking from awkward introductions through the freedom and release of inhibitions to when the birds start chirping in the early dawn. You’ll never listen to party music the same way again. If you or anyone you care about has ever had a problem with substance abuse, or if you’re saddened and worried by the reflection of society that empty and over-played pop music songs present to youth culture today then you’ll definitely connect with the experiences shared and the truthful and clear method in which they are performed. “One Too Many” is provocative and meaningful in the most humble of ways.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Jasmine Mrenica
Thunder Tangent presents “One Too Many”
When: June 10 – 18, 2017
Where: Montreal Improv Espace B, 3713 Saint-Laurent
Duration: 40 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival