SummerWorks Play Review: ONE, August 5

Toronto – ONE, a show from Alberta-based RedtoBlue Performance, has a few things going for it, but above all is this: It’s got to be one of the most visually interesting theatre festival shows I’ve seen in a long time. SummerWorks is a bit more forgiving than, say, Fringe in that there’s an hour and a half of teardown and setup time between shows, rather than the Fringe’s standard hour or less, but still, to get this much design detail not only in limited setup time, but also with a show that’s travelled across the country, is impressive.

According to the program notes, “every element…had to be considered a storytelling component,” according to the show creator, Jason Carnew, and that sort of ambition definitely shows. The detail, the sleight-of-hand with some of the props, the costuming, the excellent sound design…it’s all very impressive, even though the house lights came up unexpectedly and for no reason several times during the performance I saw.

The storyline, well, that’s not quite as impressive. ONE is purportedly a re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, only with the woman, Philistine (Amber Borotsik) in the Orpheus role, in search of her lost love George (Cole Humeny). Along the way she comes across Charon (Keith Wyatt), who manages a storeroom of all the memories of humankind, kept in the form of vinyl records, which is quite a cool idea and makes for the best scenes in the show as he tries to ignore her, then toys with her before finally spinning the recording of Philistine and George’s love. Charon tells her George has drowned at sea, and to find him she must travel to hell, which is pretty much where the close resemblance to Orpheus and Eurydice begins and ends. I hate to say the story is complicated because it’s really not; it’s a fairly straightforward “descent to the underworld” tale. But large parts of it are told through allegory and contemporary dance, particularly Philistine and George’s love and her trip to hell, and many of these bits tend to go on a little too long for my tastes.

Still, it’s a cool production, even if it’s a little too poetic and metaphorical for it’s own good at times. Well worth seeing.

ONE runs through Sunday August 14th as part of SummerWorks. Check the website for schedule and tickets.

Posted on by Brian in Summerworks, Theatre

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