“I’m gonna say it, and then you’re gonna hear it, and then it’s gonna be in your head and it won’t just be mine anymore.” says Rachel, our main character, during a flashback of a fight with her friend Leah. This line totally resonated with me and is one of the reasons I can’t get enough of coming-of-age stories, queer or otherwise. The pressure to become someone, or an identity that you’re constantly barrelling towards or that is being decided for you but that you haven’t fully formulated yet. Talking about the bigness of thoughts and how when they’re in your head they’re yours and they can be exactly what you want them to be, unpolluted by anyone else’s input or judgment. Maybe that is what makes coming-of-age so timeless, and what makes Rachel’s story so enjoyable and relatable.
Presented by the Concordia Association of Students in Theatre (C.A.S.T.), Exits is a hilarious and nerdy, queer coming-of-age play written by Ella Kohlmann and directed by Madie Jolliffe. It tells the story of Rachel (played by Ella Kohlmann), a 17-year-old who has run away from home with nothing but her school bag and a dog-eared copy of Moby Dick. It becomes clear very early on that she has no goal or plan, but just like the characters in the novel she clings to, there’s no way she can turn back now.
Rachel meets Sam (played by Kate Hammer) in an alley downtown as she’s painting graffiti. Clad in McMurphy-esque leather jacket and watch cap, Sam is almost the complete opposite of Rachel. She’s rebellious, straightforward and wise. It’s clear that Rachel, taking from the novels she seems to vicariously live through, starts to pin Sam as some kind of guide. Sam immediately squashes this idea, refusing to become a simple plot point in someone else’s story. However, this is Rachel’s story because she’s telling it, and also Sam later compares herself to Moby Dick who Rachel says is often considered a symbol for God, who is kind of a guide so maybe that’s a little contradictory and egotistical but darn it don’t put Sam in a box she’s not your saviour!
As Rachel tries to be cool around Sam, she is also visited by her 11-year-old self (played by Oli Hausknost), who is only visible to Rachel and who, like many 11-year-olds, believes wholeheartedly that she has the answer. Rachel’s anxiety, partially related to fear of coming out, is much less complicated from the point of view of her snarky younger self, which she tries to demonstrate as she and Rachel travel through her psyche to flash-backs with popular-girl Leah, also played by Kate Hammer, who expertly switches between Leah’s friendly warmth and Sam’s cynical delinquency.
With each passing Chapter of this play, cleverly separated by oceanic video and sound projection designed by Amy White, Rachel gets closer to understanding why she went on this hero’s journey in the first place. Although she still has a ways to go on her path to self-discovery at least now she has finally ‘done something’ on her own, stepped out of her comfortable suburban neighborhood, and relinquished a little of the control that she was so afraid of losing. It’s getting late, and as Rachel and Sam part ways, our final parting note is a nod to the magic of imagination and youth as Rachel uses a leftover can of Sam’s paint to draw her doorway on the wall of the alley, stepping out of this story and back home.
C.A.S.T. presents “Exits”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 7 – 16, 2019
Venue: 06 – MainLine Theatre
3997 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2W 1Y4
Admission: $7 – 10 | Ages 12+
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from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!