Boat Load (Frigid Festival 2011)
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Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street
BOTTOM LINE: A one-man-show with a cat.
London, Ontario’s Stars & Hearts Company presents Boat Load at The Red Room Theater. The show is performance at its most elemental: no costumes, mimed props, implied set, human sound effects, and minimal lighting design. Just a man and some people watching him. And it works. It works very well.
Creator/performer Jayson McDonald is a natural storyteller with practiced talent and years of experience doing similar shows in his native Canada. He blurs the line between fiction and reality, playing a young actor not unlike himself who lives in a town (presumably) not unlike his own. He plays every character, not in a series of monologues but rather in a series of one-man dialogues. The most beautiful moment is when he is playing a friend listening to “him” and is silent, nodding, reacting, frowning, with such specificity that we know everything being said by “the other guy.”
McDonald shifts seamlessly between levels of metatheatricality, daring the audience to keep up with his Inception-like layers of story. One moment, his characters are delivering hysterical treatises on fruit (“everyone likes bananas…they are nature’s telephones”); the next, they are saying things like “man, I’d make a really great character; I still do this thing with my arm,” or “don’t put me in your show; I don’t wanna be in your show.” In one scene, McDonald’s phone rings, and, after breaking off one character to lecture the audience about cell phone use, he answers it and tells his girlfriend “I can’t talk, I’m hanging out with Slater. No, you can’t talk to him, I’m being Slater. I’m in the middle of a performance!” Through such fusion of characters and storylines, McDonald is able to spiral around “the truth” (whatever that is) and keep “real” events ambiguous until the very end.
If McDonald’s stage craft isn’t enough to interest you, know this: McDonald (or his character Gary, or both) loves his cat. Enough to embody him, which he does so well, I want to take him home and feed him kibbles.
(Boat Load plays at The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street, through March 6, 2011. Remaining performances are Monday, February 28th at 8PM; Friday, March 4th at 9:30PM; Saturday, March 5th at 11PM; and Sunday March 6th at 3:30PM. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased at smarttix.com. For more festival information visit frigidnewyork.info.)