Two Kind Boys, riding the wave of their successful Ottawa Fringe debut Rideshares and Rope Swings, are rather less successful with their Fresh Meat debut Boy vs. Chair, though Fresh Meat is the perfect venue to get as experimental as this show does.
The basic premise is explained pretty succinctly by the title, but the purpose or meaning behind this conflict is less clear. Matt Hertendy, as the Boy, is exuberantly juvenile with his propeller beanie and Bop-It, and seems completely unable to sit in a simple black wooden chair onstage. He wrestles it, and the earnestness of his facial expression makes for an enjoyable if confusing experience. Things get weirder though, because Matthew Venner then appears as the Chair (or is he?) before the wrestling resumes.
In the Fresh Meat program this show is explained as a “parable about the theatre artist’s endless plight of putting ‘butts in seats,’” but I’m not sure that would have been my interpretation if I hadn’t read the promotional material (or if emcee Patrick Gauthier hadn’t read it out before the piece started). What I do take away from it is struggle (as per the wrestling), the need to share whatever brings you joy (as per the Bop-It, which is used perhaps too much), and silliness (Venner as a chair is a truly ridiculous sight). While the artistic intention isn’t too far off from those elements I have just mentioned, the connection between those elements and the intention is still far from clear.
That said, Two Kind Boys really do understand the format and aim of the Fresh Meat Festival – as emerging artists who have just started making a name for themselves in the Ottawa theatre scene this year, they certainly fit the bill for ‘fresh;’ they embrace whole-heartedly the weirdness of this idea they came up with, which is another goal of Fresh Meat. The pressure to create something easily marketable for Fringe is absent with this festival, so there’s less pressure to adhere to a traditional dramatic model. Boy vs. Chair, at least to me, is a whole-hearted embrace of the principles behind Fresh Meat – the trade-off being that while this show is undoubtedly a great way for Venner and Hertendy to blow off artistic steam now that many eyes will be following their future projects, it’s not as rewarding an experience for the audience. Boy vs. Chair shows that Two Kind Boys still have much in the way of creative instinct and impulse, but the consistency between shows as they build up their own repertoire could use some work.
Boy vs. Chair
A Two Kind Boys Production
Created and Performed by Matt Hertendy and Matthew Venner