The medium, as they say, is the message and the medium in the moving and masterful Awkward Hug is writer and solo performer Cory Thibert.

Thibert looks like a wary Prince Charming. Athletic and a fan of screamo bands, he seems to be a guy’s guy. And, at times, he is so emotionally transparent that you can see straight into his heart.

This tension between containment and expressiveness is also what drives Thibert’s telling of his true-life story. In Awkward Hug, he explores his relationship with his parents, both of whom live with disabilities. Thibert’s mom and dad didn’t raise him with much of an emotional vocabulary, it seems, but he is aware of the obstacles and injustices they suffer. He loves his parents furiously, but how can he express it?

There’s a moment that distils some of this complexity. Thibert is walking with his mom when she falls. He hesitates to help her. A gym goon rushes in and scoops her to her feet. That guy judges Thibert and Thibert questions himself. But he’s also pissed with the guy: Thibert’s mom may have felt humiliated by the Samaratin’s intervention. So our hero ties himself into a good old knot.

I don’t want to give too much away but, when that knot finally came undone, so did I.

With the help of dramaturg TJ Dawe, Thibert has crafted very satisfying prose. Images—of pets and parents and responsibilities—accumulate and echo like musical motifs.

In director Linnea Gwiazda’s minimalist production, the stage is bare. A microphone stand appears at one point. A square of light evokes a small room.

This one’s the real thing. Go see it.

At The Cultch Historic Theatre on September 7 (8:35 p.m.), 8 (10 p.m.), 9 (1:45 p.m.), 12 (9:45 p.m.), 14 (5 p.m.), and 15 (3:45 p.m.) Tickets > Colin Thomas(This review is based on a performance at the Victoria Fringe.)


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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