Published on January 24th, 2012 | by Adnan M.0
“Other People” – A play that makes you think
A commute totaling 2 and a bit hours. Delayed transit services. Damp pants from random rainfall. Wind gusts strong enough to get you off your feet – All worth going through to see the production of Other People at the Young Centre’s Tank House Theatre. After becoming unwell and missing the scheduled performance last week, the possibility of seeing the show again during its short run seemed bleak. However, with the feeling that I was really missing out on something, Monday night seemed perfect to catch this show at last. I can report one thing with absolute certainty: If I had missed this show, I would have regretted it, really badly. You may have noticed a blue star next to the rating. You need to keep reading to find out what that means.
Written by American Playwright Christopher Shinn, Other People tells the story of three New Yorkers – Stephen (Ben Lewis), Petra (Tatiana Maslany) & Mark (Indrit Kasapi) – who struggle with their art & their personal desires. Stephen is an aspiring playwright who can’t seem to contain his frustration with his current occupation as a “blurb writer”. Petra, who loves books & wishes to be a writer someday, has recently returned from Japan as a stripper and is currently Stephen’s roommate. Mark, Stephen’s Ex, is a successful screenwriter, a recovering drug addict and now a born-again Christian. Crashing at Stephen’s place, Mark struggles to fight his attraction to a street boy by the name of Tan. The story showcases the elements of love, sex & friendship and how they play a role in the struggle these three characters face when trying to live their lives.
Plays of this nature, that dabble with emotion, the mix of very personal elements such as love & friendship, can have various degrees of reception. They are touchy subjects that, if not approached correctly, can create a completely different experience all together. However, the brilliance of director Aaron Willis can be seen from the minute the lights go on. You are plunged into the lives of these characters, immersed in their conversations and immediately introduced to their state of mind. Some productions gradually bring this to light. This production, however, gets to the point. It lets you focus on understanding the characters rather than random gimmicks.
The cast puts on a brilliant performance. The realistic display of emotion, the captivating dialogue and sheer brilliant flow of conversation. From ingenious rant dialogue to uncontrollable body language, Ben nails Stephen’s character to a T. Tatiana displays the internal conflict that Petra is going through in such a way that you want to hear every word she says (no wonder she won a Gemini Award). Then there is Indrit, who literally becomes Mark on stage. You can feel the pain in every word & you have to struggle from getting out of your seat and giving him a hug.
These performances are complimented by a brilliantly designed set. Compact, clean & sophisticated. From scene to scene, you are not struggling to adapt. You immediately fall right back into the story. The production team have done a brilliant job in utilizing the space available in the Theatre. Every little space has been effectively used to really enhance the feel when watching this production.
One thing Other People does remarkably is make you think. We live in a society shrouded by things we forget to question or don’t realize that we should question. You are seated in a small Theatre, introduced to three souls who lead very different lives, the kind of lives that we sometimes frown upon as a society. However, this play breaks any barriers that exist. You are introduced to characters trapped within themselves, fighting the complexities of life to not just make sense of everything around them but also make sense of themselves. Learning about life from a stripper seems comedic but when you hear Petra talk, your not laughing. That’s how powerful this play is.
As mentioned above, a blue star was added next to the rating. This is the first time it has been put there in any theatre review done here. What does it mean? Not only is this a brilliant play but it is also an important one to watch. Theatre is not just to entertain. It is also to enlighten. This production will enlighten you on topics that some individuals will feel very uncomfortable talking about, and this play does it effectively.
Hat’s off to the cast & crew of the show, Aaron Willis for brilliant direction & Mercedes Grundy for her debut production. Also, of course, hats off to a great American Playwright: Christopher Shinn.
Other People concludes its limited run on January 28th at the Young Centre. I will boldly say, if you miss this, you are seriously going to regret it. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
ADVISORY: This play contains sexual content, coarse language, nudity & herbal cigarettes. This is for mature audiences only.