With Finishing the Suit, Bear & Co. make a valuable addition to the history of queer theatre in Ottawa. Thematically rich and dealing with important aspects of gay identity and modern British history, Suit suffers from an existential premise that perhaps draws too much attention to itself, though its strengths, as well its strong directing and design choices, outweigh any weaknesses.
The last show to open at undercurrents 2017 is the delightfully silly Faster than the Speed of Dating. With its myriad pop culture references and archetypes, some smooth sleight-of-hand, and good old-fashioned clowning, FTTSOD is just the kind of show you want to see while unwinding with a drink after one of the mainstage shows.
The simple storyline is thus: Kevin Reid takes on the role of a socially awkward yet hopeful man who tries his hand at speed dating, unconsciously helped by a sort-of romantic fairy godmother. Besides the main character Reid also embodies an ‘80s metal/headbanger type guy, and watching the contrast between these characters, especially how their different facial expressions manifest on Reid’s face, is fun to watch. The other characters, including the fairy godmother and the various women at speed dating, are breezily played by Madeleine Hall, who is in her element with FTTSOD. Each of her characters has a well-developed physicality – especially enjoyable are her turns as a fetching, hair-tossing siren and as the cool yet resentful geek girl at the next table.
This show is a wordless clown piece, though there are plenty of non-verbal vocalizations, and the frontal staging (Hall and Reid face out to the audience, even though they are “facing each other” at their table) works well for this style even without the hilarious acknowledgment of its limitations when Reid tries to grab one dating hopeful’s cigarette from her mouth. Feeding on this explicit theatricality is some unexpected magic from Reid as he makes a flower disappear and reappear.
The pop culture jokes (helped by a very ‘80s musical accompaniment) are amusing, but the playful self-acknowledgment on the production’s part is its strongest element and the source of the most satisfying laughs.
With Faster than the Speed of Dating, Strange Visitations has a nice tonic for some of the more serious shows happening in the Arts Court Theatre at undercurrents. It may be light but it’s certainly still art, and as a pay-what-you-can it is absolutely worth whatever you choose to contribute.
Faster than the Speed of Dating
A Strange Visitations Production
Conceived by Kevin Reid
Co-created by Kevin Reid, Madeleine Hall, and Jodi Morden
Performed by Kevin Reid and Madeleine Hall
Directed by Jodi Morden
Running Time: 30 minutes
In the Arts Court Studio
Friday 17 February 2017 10:30pm
Saturday 18 February 2017 10:30pm
*warning: this review contains spoilers*
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