August 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10, 2013
Alexandra Centre Society
What do you get if you take Oscar and Felix-like characters from Neil Simon’s Odd Couple, make one of them gay, and catholic, with a family who has disowned him and a sister who is trying not to be ashamed of him despite the fact that she too may be gay? Then make the other one fall for a girl in their apartment building despite just being separated from his wife who kicked him out but then reveals that she’s pregnant, aborting the baby, but then maybe not, but then what to do about the new girl who he really likes but is just as screwed up emotionally as him?
If you answered a hot mess of a play that tries to fit too much plot into one show, you’d be right.
Rel8shun was first presented in Calgary last year as a two-hour, two act production. It then went to play at the Victoria Fringe where it was pared down to one hour. The iteration playing at the Calgary Fringe is a combination of the two shows, clocking in at and hour and a half. But even a (heaven forbid) longer version of this show wouldn’t make up for the overstuffed feeling of disparate and forced narrative arcs that crowds this play into suffocation.
The one bright spot in this otherwise disappointing show is some lovely acting by the male leads. Tanner d’Esterre as Tyson, the gay, neat freak roommate shows nice comedic timing even when faced with clichéd lines that make Will and Grace seem current and cutting edge. Duane Jones as Jeff, the guys-guy slob, brings a natural ease to his character that one can’t help but feel affection for. His lovely elevator scenes as he works up the courage to ask the object of his affection out are heart-swellingly adorable. The ladies unfortunately don’t fare as well. Stephanie Orr as Li, the building love interest, is obvious and forgettable and Taylor Thompson as Tyson’s God-fearing sister is inexcusably wooden.
We keep waiting for all the story lines to tie together or at least make sense cohabiting in the same play, but this never comes. Nor does any real sense of what the playwright was trying to say with the narrative in the first place. We are told in the program notes that the show means to address relationships and what we are willing to do in order to sustain one. But by the time the performance came to a gag-worthy, melodramatic end complete with moody lighting and swelling music, all I was trying to sustain was my dinner.
For Fringeaholics – Seeing an ensemble piece is rare at the Fringe and it’s always a nice break from the plethora of solo shows. Unfortunately this one will send you tearing back to the simplicity and economy of the one actor genre. SKIP IT
For light Fringers – Rel8shun is probably one, if not the only show at the Fringe that resembles a traditional play with multiple actors and a linear storyline. Perhaps after all the alterative stuff you’ve been seeing, you need something a little more familiar. While I can’t recommend Rel8shun for its content, I can concede that it might hit a safe spot for you. MAYBE SEE IT