Fake n’ Bake (Stage 28, Lorne Cardinal Theatre at the Roxy)
By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Here’s a solo show for a likeable, vivacious woman, who arrives onstage to tell us a story, wow, trailing her own personal Greek chorus. They’re an assortment of inner critics, glowing beacons of negativity, bad ideas, and hopelessness, happy to tell Ellie Heath how she screwed up, how “awkward, pathetic, and weak” she is. Self-esteem, be gone!
They’re right there, shining through the outsized McBurger, McMilkshake and McFries cutouts onstage (designer: Tessa Stamp), reminding her helpfully that the obvious way to shed weight from an already very delicate frame, no problem, is to eat even less and exercise even more. Inspirational, really, how they remind her of the childhood bullies who chanted “fake n’ bake, fake n’ bake, ass ass patty cake.” What are friends for, eh?
In all the dialogues that Heath will have in her first solo-written play — Ellie and her dad, Ellie and a skeptical ER nurse, Ellie and doctors — it’s the inner critics circle who step up with immediate helpful answers to any confusion or anxiety. Substitute booze for food, add pills, start smoking.… That way you can get an eating disorder and a whole chain of addictions all at the same time. And then you can enhance your anxiety level, by your ingenuity at hiding all of the above.
The repertoire of Fringe artists telling personal horror stories onstage is quite lengthy, to tell you the truth. What sets Fake n’ Bake and the production directed by Kristi Hansen apart is its inventive storytelling and vivid theatricality; it has a reason to be on a theatre stage. Despite its serious subject matter it’s downright fun and funny.
Heath is a terrific performer, as you already know if you’ve watched comedy sketches by the Heath and her Girl Brain cohorts. You really want her to win. She deserves to win. One day she looks that chorus of hers in the “eye” and takes charge. And you want to cheer.