Skin Flick by Norm Foster: Book Review

Skin Flick

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 112
Publish date: March 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Middle-aged couple Daphne and Rollie and their friend Alex are out of work and out of luck when they get the idea to make their own porno film for some quick cash. The only problem is none of them want to star in it. As if on cue, a birthday telegram messenger arrives on their doorstep…

Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I wasn’t sure what the tone of this play was going to be when I picked it up, but as soon as I started reading, I could not stop chuckling to myself. Rollie narrates the story to the audience directly, telling the story of how their idea to make a porn film came to be, and these narration often influence the characters acting out the story. Rollie decides to censor their language, and the characters become aware of the fact that their “F-words” get bleeped out. He also changes details mid-story and they get confused as to why they’re saying one thing when they wanted to say another. I thought the narration and breaking the fourth wall was extremely clever and entertaining.

I also enjoyed how dynamic and fun the characters were to read. I didn’t feel like any of them were particularly flat or conventional, which was refreshing for a comedy. And on a bit of a deeper level, I really liked the way the play addressed the topic of sex. Each character had their own viewpoint that wasn’t right or wrong. Sex wasn’t just meaningful, and it wasn’t just a meaningless act.  It was dependent on the situation and the individuals involved, and I thought that was a really great approach to the topic.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

Honestly, there wasn’t any part of reading this play that I didn’t enjoy. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I wasn’t totally blown away (pun intended?). It was funny and I had a great time imagining the staging of this production, but it isn’t going to go down as one of my all-time favourites. And that is what a 5-star rating is reserved for, in my books.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You’re looking for a great, live comedy;
  • You’re open to learning about various opinions on sex;
  • You have an hour to kill and want to laugh.

Skin Flick is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Huff & Stitch by Cliff Cardinal: Book Review

Huff & Stitch

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 112
Publish date: March 27, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Huff is the wrenching, yet darkly comic tale of Wind and his brothers, caught in a torrent of solvent abuse and struggling to cope with the death of their mother.

Wind’s fantastic dream world bleeds into his haunting reality, as he’s preyed on by the Trickster through the hallways at school, the abandoned motel he loves more than home, and his own fragile psyche.

-from Native Earth Performing Arts

Kylie Grandview, single mom, and one of the nameless faces that blip across the screens of internet pornography is seduced by her dreams of starring in a main stream movie. In a twisted, turning series of self-sabotaging decisions ultimately resulting in the loss of her child, Stitch is Kylie’s last ditch effort to tell the truth about what happened to her face.

-from Native Earth Performing Arts

WHAT I LIKED

I’ll say right off the bat, I enjoyed reading Stitch more than I enjoyed reading Huff. They evened out to four stars because one earned 3 stars from me, while the other was a 5. Both plays utilized the idea of characters that were personifications of things (in Huff, a character represented smell, while in Stitch, there was a character representing a yeast infection – yup). Which I really liked – I love that theatre has the ability to make visual things that typically aren’t visually accessible.

I found that Stitch was a more interesting read for me, because it addressed a lot of feminism and gender issues. It was really disturbing to think about Kylie’s daughter stumbling upon the porn starring her mother and even reenacting the scenes with her friends, but it also made me feel sad that women kind of fall into the expectation that their worth is dependent on their appearance and their sex appeal. There are many more things I could write about regarding this play, but for now I’ll leave it at this: if you’re interested in reading about women’s issues, this is a great read.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

I don’t think I particularly didn’t like anything about either play, I just don’t think I related much with Huff, so I felt more disconnected reading that one. I think I’d like to see it on stage before coming up with a final opinion on the play.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like reading theatre; and
  • You can stomach reading disturbing scenes.

Huff & Stitch is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Black Dog: 4 vs the Wrld by Matthew Heiti: Book Review

Black Dog: 4 vs the wrld

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 112
Publish date: March 14, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

A darkly comic story of four teenagers struggling with death, depression, and the shadow of a black dog.

Two is fraught. While dealing with the impossible expectations of her parents, she is trying to understand why her brother has taken his own life. It’s not until a fateful school detention that she meets three other students as lost as she is.

-from Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I loved the fact that this play breaks the fourth wall. Heiti doesn’t invite the audience to think about mental illness, but forces them to. The play begins with the cast members in the audience. People who suffer mental illness aren’t “those people over there”, they’re everyone and anyone. The characters don’t even have names: they’re Two, Three, Four, and Five. It allows the reader to relate to them, rather than distancing them with a name that isn’t their own.

I’m sorry, when I read theatre, I automatically go into “essay” mode. Because to me, theatre is just smart and much more fun to analyze. Which I definitely did the entire time I was reading this piece.

I loved the realism of the characters. I loved the way that Heiti incorporated technology and the screen into the play; I thought that was particularly interesting.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

My only complaint is my usual complaint about what happens when I read theatre: it was too short. I wish I could have seen a production of the play to see how it was interpreted from page to stage, but I guess reading it gave me the freedom to come up with my own ideas of what this story looks like.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You liked The Breakfast Club;
  • You like literature that breaks the fourth wall; or
  • You are interested in stories about characters who have to overcome intense internal struggles.

Black Dog: 4 vs the Wrld is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – Play Review

When my sister told me that she was going on a class trip to a nearby theatre to see a local theatre group put on a musical, I was mostly joking in my suggestion that I should follow along. But she asked her teacher; and next thing I know, I’m in a seat with my sister’s class about to watch a small production of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. And it was definitely worth going through the trouble.

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells the story of a typical spelling bee competition among a group of young children. Each child, of course, has his or her own back story regarding how they became competitors aiming for first place. Some children are smart and value this knowledge, others have parents who encourage them to study more than they perhaps choose, while others do it to possibly distract themselves from their home life.

Despite the emotional plotline, the script itself is absolutely hilarious. I found myself crying with laughter, and having to tell myself to calm down as a more emotional scene approached. Songs such as “My Unfortunate Erection” really sum up the musical; children who are so determined to succeed that they end up failing, sometimes in the most horrifying of ways.

If I ever got a chance, I would most definitely see this musical again, and I would encourage anyone who needs a good laugh to go see Spelling Bee.

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello: Play Review

This play was on the required reading list for my modern drama course, and although I’d never heard of the play or the playwright before the class, the title had me intrigued immediately. It sounded likes something philosophical – as though we were the characters looking for something bigger in the universe that would provide some great plan to life. And for the first time in my life, I actually wasn’t that far off.

Six Characters in Search of an Author takes place on a stage – the very stage on which you would be watching the performance. On the stage there are actors and a manager who are all preparing to put on a show. That’s when six characters come into the scene and demand that the manager put on a play that tells their story. The nameless characters tell the manager the details of their story and insist that everything be exactly as it really happened. Unfortunately, certain things cannot be staged as they actually happen, for instance two things happening at the same time in different places.

The metatheatricality is a thing of beauty. I love the idea that the stage itself is a set. The intermission would be signaled by the “actors” saying they need a break and all of the characters (including the “actors” and the “manager”) walk offstage. The entire performance is put on as though it is something really happening before your eyes – because it actually is something really happening before your eyes.

Confused yet? I promise that this review makes it sound more complicated than it is. When you actually read Six Characters, you’ll find yourself getting it more easily as the plot goes directly to your understanding of it.

The play uses metatheatricality to explain the art of theatre as an art that can only exist in the moment. The “characters” can only exist while they are on this particular stage, saying those particular words. They require this greater plan that is the words of the play to be personified. I also grasped this concept in a theological sense: people looking at their existence only in the context of some bigger plan.

If you’re up for it, Six Characters is one of my favourite plays, and I highly suggest you give it a read. Your mind will be blown.