BWW Reviews: Business as Usual
By Evan Andrew Mackay, special to BroadwayWorldThree emerging theatre companies have come together to present "3 Shows", three separate new works of physical theatre, each about an hour long, playing in rotation at The Theatre Centre until May 18th Business as Usual depicts a "corporate Twilight Zone" of big business insiders trying to carry on in a "post-crash world". The bouffon-inspired satire Death Married My Daughter (Best of Fringe 2013) brings Shakespeare's Ophelia and Desdemona back from death to take on the patriarchy. In Ralph + Lina, Christina Serra and her co-star tell the charming true romance of her Italian grandparents.
Having been dazzled by Viktor Lukawski and Adam Paolozza in The Double at Tarragon last November, I couldn't wait to see what they, and co-creator/performer Nicolas Di Gaetano, would do in Business as Usual, presented by Lukawski's ZOU Theatre. Directed by Lukawski and created by all three performers, this outrageous series of linked vignettes shows over-the-top corporate go-getters in over their heads after the crash, all pretending that everything will be fine "by next quarter". "Gloomy Sunday" and other nostalgic suicide songs are contrasted with tension and brutality reminiscent of American Psycho.
What this show lacks in pathos, it makes up for with occasional Monty Python-esque extremes of vulgarity. Scenes are equally strong with or without dialogue, but what sells this show is the physicality. Scenes range from shocking to silly, but are generally quite funny unless you are a Bay Street type.
The set is simple and effective: three wall panels (on wheels), each with an office window and venetian blind, and a bit of office furniture. The actors move these panels around to create an array of office and off-hours venues. Although this show may provoke a wince or two, there is never a dull moment. I was wise to wait in the lobby for 15 minutes and stick around for the next show, Ahuri Theatre's comedy Ralph + Lina, directed by Michele Smith and written by her and actors Dan Watson and Christina Serra.
Watson and Serra, who are husband and wife, bring to life the touching saga of two Italians who fall in love just as World War Two begins and separates them. What makes Ralph + Lina great is that they are not a perfect couple and they are not a tragically flawed couple; they are a believably loving couple who go through a couple of major ordeals. What might have been merely a sweet story is elevated by fantastic physical scenes which Serra and Watson execute like Charlie Chaplin in tandem.
Each of the three shows has only a few minutes to pack up and clear out for the next (just like Fringe), so the set for Ralph + Lina is again very simple and portable, just what the story calls for. It is a great thing that The Theatre Centre, an "arts incubator" with a mission to nurture artists creating new and experimental or alternative work, can provide a venue for these three independent companies to come together and present what is essentially a mini festival of physical theatre.
With shows running until May 18th, I may yet find time to go back for Death Married My Daughter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evan Andrew Mackay writes theatre reviews for Post City Magazines. He is currently seeking a publisher for his first novel and is further developing his latest play, Father Hero Traitor Son (2013), about a war hero with a traitorous son, (not as many laughs as the play about colorectal cancer which he co-wrote and performed in at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival). Evan writes drama, prose and humour in any form, and he is a journalist of culture and social justice. Also, he is obsessed with languages.* He has been a regular contributor to Post City Magazine and Nikkei Voice, national newspaper of Japanese Canadians. Raised in the Maritimes, he tends to live in Toronto.