White Guy On Stage Talking (Stage 4, Walterdale Theatre)
By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Surprise! Here’s an entertainingly hyperactive, inventive performance piece that takes live theatre at its word.
C’mon, there’s is no known way to predict what will happen next when a 21-scene hour-long show starts with Ass Song, starring a butt puppet smoking to Don’t Rain On My Parade (great moments in musical theatre), and includes Souls For Sale (audience collaboration on a list of things you’d sell your soul for), and a comic meditation on the sketchy service at The Last Supper. No wine (supply chain issues), only water.
White Guy On Stage Talking, starring Jack Tkaczyk and Meegan Sweet, is, title notwithstanding, far from a lecture or a monologue. It’s a barrage of theatrical sass and ‘trigger warnings’ come to life, before your very eyes. It’s both literal-minded and playful, smart and dumb, teasing and serious, goofball and satirical —sometimes in the same scene. The pair onstage touch down on, or bounce around on, or lift off from, a wide assortment of thoughts about modern life, its habits, its irritations, its absurdities and specious claims, its bullshit.
And this is fun.
There’s shame and catharsis, both involving easy-going audience participation (with champagne as a reward). It’s theatrical free-association at a sensory-overload buffet. In Happy Pride, scene 5, you can hear the vicious anti-tran rant written to Canmore Pride by the owner of disgraced Valbello Gourmet Foods. In scene 7, Creative Process, an amusing little piece of self-mockery from theatre artists, Sweet gets wrapped in plastic gauze, as Tkaczyk in a pumpkin head does close-up eye contact with the folks in the first row.
I don’t want to give away the show’s vision of Heaven, except to say it involves a plastic swimming pool and an electric toaster. As in surrealist imagery, you pretty much have to unhinge the lobe of your brain that craves meaning, then hook it back up for scenes that make fun of fatuous modern practices like makeovers, or wonder about the queasiness that Juliet is 13 when she hooks up with Romeo.
And modern theatre, you know, like White Guy On Stage Talking, takes some shivs too. How can you resist the spirit of performance art that water-boards “first-person theatre” in a pool. “Where’s the plot?” the torturer demands to know. “How will people know the meaning?”
Have yourself a Fringe experience, and meaning will kind of seep into you. Don’t take anyone prissy.