Reviewed by Wes Babcock
Written, directed, produced and performed by Caitlin Oleson, Crushed would really benefit from a few more hands on the creative side of the production.
Oleson’s performance as Ava is endearing. She comes across as a very genuine character, and Oleson does a good job getting the audience on-side through some good moments of direct address.
I am going to examine one of the show’s strongest moments, brief as it is, as a way into talking about the shortcomings that characterize the majority of this show. The moment was early in the show, when Ava is talking about her first boyfriend in highschool. She goes on MSN messenger wanting desperately to talk to him, and waits. This moment is great: it is emblematic of a specific moment in history; it gives us insight into Ava’s anxious character; it evokes and almost universal moment for people who went through high and middle school in the early 21st century within a specific context of the character’s life. This is the sort of moment that makes storytelling such a powerful medium.
Much of the show, however, does not work in this way. Its clear that Oleson’s script is reaching for the universal appeal of a love story. Most people have been in love, and even more of them have had bad experiences dating, so it’s a good choice of theme. Where this script falls short is that Ava’s telling is more like a plot summary than an actual story. She alludes amply to her romantic misadventures, but never recreates them in any detail.
The near-present story of her trip to the lecture hall with which the show opens is a good example of what I mean. We meet Lecture Guy in line outside the auditorium, where we gain some insight into Ava’s character as she anxiously avoids interacting with him while she can’t help but noticing how considerate he is as he helps an old woman gather up a pile of dropped books and find a seat. So far, this is a bit cliché, but the reason clichés exist is because sometimes they happen. Ok. He sits beside her. Ok. She continues to ignore him. Ok. Then the question and answer period of the lecture comes around. Lecture Guy goes to the microphone where he asks, “something so well thought out, so insightful, so…” the substance of which we never learn.
We also never find out what the lecture was about, the name of the band she suddenly remembers he was in and which was her favourite many years ago, or what kind of music they play, or why they were good, or… These are all ways into the character development of which this play stands in desperate need. Throughout the show, we learn a lot of facts about Ava’s life, but we are never shown any detail about them. She doesn’t so much “relive the highs and lows” of her life as tell us that they happened.
I wanted very much to like this show more, because the character of Ava has obviously been through a lot of heartache, anxiety, and turmoil in her life. She seems like a character I could relate to. Unfortunately, the text leaves me no platform on which to start building such a relationship when it so consistently summarizes relationships in which Ava would enjoy “do[ing] things,” without actually telling or showing me any things she did.
Arts Court ODD Box
by Caitlin Oleson