To Hell in a Hand Basket

Wes Babcock

 

I don’t gush; it’s not in my nature. But watching Madeleine Boyes-Manseau’s production To Hell in a Hand Basket absolutely makes me want to gush. So let’s give it a whirl.

The show is about Joy (Boyes-Manseau), a hospital nurse who deals with relationships like she deals with her patients: by wearing latex gloves. I’m not sure I can do any justice to the subtleties and quirks of this character, but in any case, Boyes-Manseau has managed to embody her with such captivating charm that I forgot this was theatre.

The small space turns intimate in the alley configuration as, under the direction of Brad Long, Boyes-Manseau wraps the audience up in one of the most genuine performer-audience interactions I have ever seen. More than performing for you, Boyes-Manseau talks with you, looks at you, in a way that genuinely includes you in the conversation. This goes beyond courtesy or convention; she calls for you to speak, or you stay silent because her presence on stage and the story she tells are so in need of a listener.

There was only a single moment in this show that didn’t work for me. Unfortunately it came at the introduction of the emotional climax, where Boyes-Manseau makes what seems to be a change of tactic in her otherwise frank dealing with the audience by exchanging her address of the individual “you’s” in the crowd for the collective “you” of a character in Joy’s life. Refiguring her manner at that particular moment pushed me out of my otherwise total immersion in the show; the rest of the performance was so good and I was so invested in it, that being pushed out of it here, now, made me viscerally angry. I didn’t want to leave the headspace where Joy had brought me, and then I did. The fact that Boyes-Manseau wound me up to such a degree absolutely speaks to her skill as an actor, and her script’s ability to create deep engagement within the audience.

Beyond merely clever, the hilarious, quick-witted script, and a dash of the ridiculous, brings life to this strange character as she fights to maintain control of herself and her shattering personal relationships. While Boyes-Manseau never misses a note, Joy’s telling unwillingly reveals the heart of the story as it seeps through the cracks that split in her rigid skin. This subtlety leads into the facts of the conclusion very well, though I do wish there had been a few more facts established. I wanted to see Joy break completely, and I felt like I missed it by a sentence or two.

I can’t emphasize enough that my desire for an extra phrase by no means detracts or undermines the outstanding and intimate experience delivered by Boyes-Manseau throughout. I loved this show, and after watching it, I feel like Joy and I know each other in a way only we can. And I promise you will too.

 

Upcoming Shows: (BYOV A: Studio 311)

 

June 25 @ 19:00

June 26 @ 21:30

June 27 @ 22:00

June 28 @ 15:00 & 21:00