BWW Review: THE PARTICULARS burns slow at The Theatre Centre
If we're going by technical desription, THE PARTICULARS, on now at the Theatre Centre, is an experimental piece of drama that incorporates elements of dance and movement. If we're being less technical, we can call it a Fringe show with wings.
Gordon (Simon Bracken) stands in a bathrobe with his tighty whities peaking out. As he describes the activities of his day-to-day life in a booming alto, a gaggle of veiled dancers writhe behind him, embellishing his story through interpretive movement. "I WENT TO WORK," Gordon shouts (I'm paraphrasing, but only just) and eight bodies wiggle around to represent going to work.
Gordon's life is defined by its banality - work, gardening, grocery shopping - except for a couple of unusual details. He is a lonely man, living in isolation, faking his way through conversations with coworkers about sports and women. He is a particular man (get it?) and prone to idiosyncrasy. And, to top it all off, lately he's been hearing this scratching sound in his house. The sound is getting to him, it's making it hard to sleep. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, Gordon's internal crises are manifested through external phenomena, and he feels forced to confront the source of the scratching.
THE PARTICULARS is a slow burn. 69 minutes of its 70-minute runtime are devoted to the ordinary, to descriptions of aphids and emails. When the twist does come about, in minute 70, it's enough to make you stop and go, "Woah!" Whether one minute of woah is worth 69 minutes of aphids is up to you.
Simon Bracken imbues his character with a great deal of intensity but very little passion, creating the impression of a man deeply off balance. Costume designer Alison Yanota's decision to present Gordon in a robe and y-fronts evokes old-timey mental hospitals and suggests from the get-go that something about Gordon is really off. (Interestingly, in press photos and promotional materials, Gordon is depicted fully-clothed.) The evening that I attended, the show was followed by an expert panel discussion on mental health.
Although there are hints of mental illness in the text of THE PARTICULARS, this connection feels like a stretch, and even the playwright and director, Matthew MacKenzie, acknowledged in the panel that people can interpret the end in any number of ways. His collaborators, however, seem to have shoehorned in a very narrow interpretation that denies MacKenzie's project the space it needs to breathe.
PUNCTUATE! THEATRE and THE THEATRE CENTRE's THE PARTICULARS runs through 26 OCTOBER at THE THEATRE CENTRE, 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit theatrecentre.org
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz