REVIEW: 3 Plays About Toronto Theatre, Review by Aurora Stewart de Peña

Written and Directed by Bobby Del Rio

Presented by Del Rio and Jason Morneau

Featuring: Ryan Moleiro, Jessica Salgueiro, Jonathan Shatzky, Julie Tesolin, Bahia Watson, and K Trevor Wilson.

Playing September 17 through Oct 4, Tuesday to Saturday, 8pm. Sundays, 2:30pm.

Tickets $10, Sundays PWYC

Playing at 970 Queen St W, Unit 7

Ticket reservations:

Nobody does self-promotion quite like Bobby Del Rio. Back in 2004 I ended up on his email list and would get messages about every single page he wrote every other day or so. During the height of the Facebook / Myspace crossover I was getting up to four emails a day to inform me of his up-comings. If, some morning in the future, I get six emails, a tweet and an independent Sirius radio broadcast about his recently completed word jumble, I will think “Yes. This is the natural progression of things. Morning will turn to afternoon. Spring will turn to summer. I will grow old and stare fondly at grandchildren. All is as it should be."

Despite all of this dedicated self-promotion, I had never been to see a Bobby Del Rio play. This wasn't his fault. Before writing for this website, I mostly went to things done by people I knew or things my friend Norman got free tickets for. Everyone is always giving Norman tickets.

Del Rio has been keeping a blog detailing the process of Three Plays about Toronto Theatre. It was his goal to do the entire thing for no money. When I spoke to him on the phone he said he thought he might have been able to get some money for the production, but that it was a challenge that he wanted to rise to meet. Part of it was because his producer had said that he had always wanted to do a play in his apartment. Part of it was just to see if he could do it.

The space where the show is presented is pretty small, and you are no doubt about it, in somebody's kitchen. I like that. I'd like to see more of this kind of thing in general. Theatre creators are burdened with the idea that nothing is possible without lots and lots of money to make it good, so many potentially great things never see a stage. I think putting on plays in your kitchen is an accessible solution. Del Rio seems a bit self-conscious about it, though.

Three Plays about Toronto Theatre is not Toronto specific. If it were, I might think that Del Rio himself would be a character. It was so named, the author said, to give it a bit of a "hook". It is a series of three short comedies, about the world of performing, creating performance and the people who feel compelled to do the aforementioned. The dialogue is quick and witty and the actors are sincere and energetic.

That said, I'm unsure of why this had to be a play. Though Del Rio uses his apartment/theatre to effect, employing the open refrigerator as light source and the bathroom as a dressing room, it seems to me that this might have made a happier television show, despite the fact that it's about theatre. The actors are directed to be naturalistic, almost casual, and when they are big as is Ryan Moleiro, they have the heightened exuberance of Kramer sliding into Jerry's apartment. There are witty non sequiturs, and nothing gets overly physical. It is safe to say that Del Rio is a product of the Seinfeld generation.

This brings to murky light the idea that many young theatre creators are not particularly influenced by theatre. Often, we can't blame them. There is a lot of bad, expensive theatre to be seen. It also takes forever to write a play, and then when you're finished you frequently find yourself in the uncomfortable boat of having a completed script that stopped being relevant to you 3 years ago. We are used to aggressively contemporary media that reflects us back at ourselves only seconds after we've walked away from the mirror. Theatre can't be that. It moves too slowly. That is why so much lasting theatre, the plays we want to do over and over again, exist in a timeless vacuum, exploring the universal themes of humanity. But that can get awfully exhausting; sometimes you just want to sit down and watch something.

If we live in a generation that wants bountiful, relevant media, does that exclude theatre for all but the very patient? Maybe. Each new form of entertainment claims to be a replacement for the old one. Movies replaced theatre, television replaced movies, the internet replaced blah blah blah. That's how we are in North America. We want to think we're on a constant incline of innovation, disposing with the old and wholeheartedly consuming the new. That is not actually what we do. We just keep adding to what we already have, momentarily losing interest in the old thing, but eventually remembering how great it was and shuffling back, seeing how it can grow to suit our glossy modern needs.

While Del Rio's play/television hybrid is an expression of how theatre can grow, it doesn't strike me as particularly theatrical. But frequently it’s the overly theatrical that alienates an uninitiated audience. The conventions of performance, to which we cling in all of their antiquity because they’re indications of quality, seem strange in a society where staying calm and not getting overly emotional is valued above passion and fury. We love film in part because of its ability to capture all of the small and subtle moments, emotional indicators that we miss between each other. Actors in the theatre can imitate the style of actors in film, but without the close-ups, long shots and whatever else a film director uses to establish a feeling scape, all of the intimacy is lost.

People will like Three Plays about Toronto Theatre. It's funny. People will go and it will sell out. It is certainly entertaining, and Lord knows Del Rio will keep us abreast of how it all goes down ("you've got to pimp it" he said, when I asked him about his vigorous electronic promotion).

But should theatre, in an attempt to stay relevant, venture into the world of live television? Del Rio seems poised to walk the line.

1 comment:

Lisa PN said...

thanks for the great review.