Review by Wes Babcock
Working Title: Undecided, from the minds of Drawing Board Productions’ Kyle Kimmerly and Tamlynn Bryson rides the cliff-edge of audience interaction to poignant and hilarious heights.
This show draws on a strong script to harness the unpredictable nature of its invariably-unique audience through Bryson’s dynamic performance as Tess. Yes. That does sound like it works on a lot of levels. The show takes place inside Tess’ head during the 10 seconds after she is asked a very big question. She enlists the help of the audience as she attempts to problem-solve her way to a decision, and we learn progressively more of the story as we work through the subtleties of the decision together.
The conscious and constant involvement of the audience in this show leads to the crowd’s increased investment in the outcome of the decision, and is done in such a way that it doesn’t break the premise of the show: that we’re all inside the head of real-life Tess. Even through boisterous or potentially derailing moments of participation from certain members of the crowd, Bryson keeps the story on track with improvisational wit that often incorporates their contributions rather than dismissing them.
This element of our acknowledged involvement also makes for one minor logistical problem. There are a few strange moments when we have to learn new information, like who Steve is for example, when the convention that’s been established (that the audience is an integral part of Tess’ brain) suggests that we should probably already know. This was the only time the script or performance broke for me; it seemed strange to remind yourself of the basics of identity of a principal character in your life. I understand the difficulty of overcoming this hurdle, and the production makes an admirable attempt to skate past it. The moment (which is repeated a couple times with different characters) just isn’t handled quite as smoothly as the rest of the show.
Besides audience engagement, this show also succeeds on the back of Bryson’s energetic performance. She brings to life the rapid pace and brief memory-like flashes of anecdote that feature prominently throughout the script. There is no vagueness here, and the script has a knack for picking out the specific moments of relationships that come across as characteristic and emblematic of the people we are supposed to be remembering, while Bryson’s physicality shifts with almost cartoonish rapidity and control to embody them.
The show also does an admirable job of dealing with the potentially problematic and normative nature of the story it tells by addressing them head-on in a considered and self-aware fashion. The plot is by no means unique, and relies on some fairly standard sets of relationships as a bit of short hand to get us into the interesting way in which the story is told. It’s all inside Tess’ head after all, so this strategy and the way Tess overcomes these anxieties works on a logical as well as humorous level. The conclusion also makes a significant positive contribution to this result.
All in all, this show does a fun take on the historical and cultural moment inhabited by it’s main character, will not only keep you entertained, but also bound up in the plot’s resolution, and features one of the stronger individual performances at this year’s festival.
Drawing Board Productions
Created by Tamlynn Bryson and Kyle Kimmerly
Performed by Tamlynn Bryson
Venue BYOV B Studio 311