Many shows at Fringe offer irreverent humour, songs, and challenging ideas. Take the B Train has no irreverent humour or songs, though it certainly a challenging experience that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. A look into the life of a retirement-aged couple who live their lives without really doing any living is a concept as chilling as it is familiar.
Manni and Tori Kuper sit in their living room, he with his books, she with her tablet, and through their conversations it becomes clear that this is a couple who, while perfectly comfortable, have little to actually do. Perhaps this is why Manni’s character in particular comes across as somewhat childish – like a child, a man in his retirement may feel that he isn’t taken seriously by others. In response Tori’s character comes across as very reassuring, though in more of a maternal way. It’s an astute observation, if not a very rosy one.
When I say that this show is a challenging experience I refer to the unusually structured dialogue, which at times seems to be an exercise in free association although there are plenty of non-sequiturs thrown in for good measure. Since Manni and Tori have so little to do, they have everything to talk about. In Samuel Beckett’s plays the characters have detailed conversations among themselves about nothing at all; in B Train the conversation seems empty but is really about everything. A non-sequitur will appear (“Who wrote The Borrowers?”) before arbitrarily tying into some previous thought (“They have the cheque we’re looking for.” “Who?” “The borrowers.”) After each thread of conversation has run out, another non-sequitur appears and it starts all over again. It’s very much how real conversation works, except the flow is so artificially structured that the quiet desperation Manni so obviously feels can’t help but creep out. He keeps suggesting that he and Tori take a trip, though they never seem to, and he barely moves from his slightly right-of-centre armchair for the entire show. This is a man who doesn’t want to acknowledge the reality of his situation, preferring to continue living in the illusion of conversation that he keeps up with Tori.
Despite the artifice of the dialogue this show still seems true to the experience of people in that stage of life – a stage of life I personally have not yet experienced, nor will for a long time. This is probably why the references to contemporary life in Ottawa (which are generously peppered throughout) seem more alienating than familiarizing – it’s jarring to reconcile the little worlds we create for ourselves with the larger one in which we all live.
Take the B Train is not necessarily an easy show to watch, but it is a show that you will keep turning over in your head until you find meaning in it – not something most Fringe shows will do to you.
Take the B Train
A Fractual Theatre production
Written by Lorne Williams
Directed by Vicki Williams
Sound Design by Rick Cousins
Starring Allan MacDonald and Wendi Smith
Running Time: 60 minutes
Playing at ODD Box
Friday June 19 7:30 pm
Sunday June 21 4:30 pm
Tuesday June 23 8:30 pm
Friday June 26 10:00 pm
Sunday June 28 4:30 pm