The Emergency Monologues at Summerworks by Evan Webber

The Emergency Monologues
by Morgan Jones Phillips

Directed by Evalyn Parry
Presented by Drinking Well
Featuring Morgan Jones Phillips

Morgan Jones Phillips is big and friendly and tells funny and horrifying true stories from his work as a paramedic, and he has all the unnerving, loquacious energy of the shell-shocked. The night I saw the show he informed us that he had just worked his third nightshift in a row. He was almost falling over, and was entirely winning. Though Phillips is the only human performer in the show, it would be a mistake to say that he is the star of The Emergency Monologues. That honour undeniably goes to ‘The Wheel of Misfortune’ which is prop, hero, villain, plot device, and rickety emblem of human frailty all rolled up into one.

It’s a brilliantly simple form. Phillips spins the wheel, he reads out the random selection and then has to talk about the indicated story, code-word or moral. Then he does it again, and the show literally revolves around the wheel, so always the tales of wisdom and idiocy he expresses are punctuated by the melodramatics of a roulette game. It’s inevitable that the random playlist yields less than perfect results, but that’s pleasingly intentional. The formal constraint is compelling and thematic in its own right, but by offering the possibility that we might hear a story that’s never been told, or that Phillips might be forced into an even more uncomfortable position as speaker as he shifts quickly from the comic to the irredeemably dark, it also makes a witty comment on the show’s own avowedly populist form. It shows us ourselves.

At the end of it, of course, he tell us the message, which is that Toronto needs more ambulances on the road lest the Wheel of Misfortune grow even larger. Sometimes Phillips's desire for a funny story, or his simple exhaustion undoes some of the beautiful tension of this show. It’s also possible that he’s too good a storyteller, that he’d rather make us laugh than give us the space to live uncomfortably with the material. But this is a brand-new work (I hope that this production marks a point of departure rather than arrival) and the fact that I could imagine what it could be doesn’t change what it is. As such, The Emergency Monologues is a piece of intelligent agit-prop. Successful agit-prop too, because, there is no suspect or problematic ideology on display here. (Unless you think publicly-funded health-care is suspect or problematic, and even you might have your mind changed). It mobilizes us instantly against that intractable foe: plain, dumb luck, Dame Fortuna herself – and not alone, not by ourselves, as the title might suggest, but freely, eagerly, and together.

Fri Aug 15 6:00pm
Sat Aug 16 10:00pm
Sun Aug 17 6:00pm

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the show and took it exactly as I intended. This is a starting point. I'm not sure where I'll take the show next (actually, I do. Sept 17 at the Transac Club in Toronto along with the Girls With Glassess). But other than that gig, I'm not sure. I'm enjoying it, and I'd like it to live on. Many wise people told me not to use the wheel and to just pick my 8 best stories, but I like the wheel. I improvise a lot so I may not have said the line "spinning the wheel and not knowing what comes next is a lot like my job." Thanks for coming to see it .
By the way, I self-published all the stories (and more) into a book. If you're interested, send me an email.

Thanks again
ps If you come to a show, please introduce yourself. i always like that.