Kismet, things have changed: compare and contrast

The Cultch and PuSh are presenting The Chop's Kismet, things have changed.

The way they were: Daryl King, Emelia Symington Fedy, Hazel Venzon, and Anita Rochon stand in front of an image of themselves from ten years ago. (Photo by Reznekcreative)

Comparison is odious. It can also be instructive. I really like Kismet, things have changed and recommend you see it. I loved KISMET, one to one hundred and I strongly suggest you go back in time and see if you can catch that show ten years ago.

The same four creators wrote both pieces. In 2010, Emelia Symington Fedy, Daryl King, Anita Rochon, and Hazel Venzon, interviewed people, aged one to one hundred, about fate and destiny.  The result was KISMET, one to one hundred and I still cherish my memory of it. Always generous, KISMET, one to one hundred celebrated the beauty of everyday life within the inevitable context — given the frame of aging — of death. A hundred-year-old woman talked about abandoning herself to love. A little girl professed her belief that her meeting with her best friend was foretold by a Taylor Swift song.

Now the same four creators have followed a similar process with the surviving interviewees from the first show as well as some new folks. And they’ve asked a lot of the same questions about life changes, values, and so on.

Kismet, things have changed retains a lot of the charm of the original. It includes a gorgeous recreation of a conversation between King and his ancient Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim, who has some kind of dementia, doesn’t recognize his nephew, but the two men treat one another with tenderness and, in a touching motif, Jim keeps circling back to his love for his dead wife Audrey. Under Anita Rochon’s direction, Venzon plays King and King plays his uncle. It’s such a simple and sophisticated embodiment of theatre’s capacity for creating empathy. “I don’t know what the hell’s the matter with me but I cry sometimes.” That’s Jim’s line. It will break your heart.

And Kismet, things have changed offers a wacky kind of road movie: extended video clips — captured on a dashboard camera — of Fedy and Venzon’s journey north to interview some of their subjects. The two actors weep over the spiritual connections that they have — or lack — with deceased parents. And, when they pass a dead white horse on the highway, Fedy intones, “We need to look up ‘What does dead white horse mean?’”, then she cracks up. She seems to be simultaneously serious about her belief in the significance of the dead animal and aware of the absurdity of her belief, which makes the sequence giddily engaging.

It strikes me that Kismet, things have changed is a little too stuck on itself though: in this iteration, less material focuses on the subjects and more focuses on the creators, so the show feels less varied and considerably less generous. King’s material about his kids is always winning, but Anita Rochon’s short essays, which she delivers from a chair stage left, fall flat theatrically; they’re about ideas, not relationships.

There’s so much video off the top that I worried we weren’t going to spend enough time in the concrete space of the theatre. And the video is projected on Drew Facey’s central set piece, a curtain of long white fringe; sculpturally, the curtain is a stunner, but it’s not a great projection surface.

There’s also a scene in the latter half that goes on far too long. In it, Fedy and Venzon take a couple of young Indigenous women, whom they met ten years ago, out to dinner. As in all of the scenes, the dialogue has been pulled directly from the recorded conversation and the clear point in this case is that Fedy and Venzon just can’t shut up: they’re so overeager that they overwhelm the women who are meant to be their subjects. The scene finally explicitly encourages us to recognize the colonialist deafness of good intentions. It’s a valid point, but it takes too long to get there.

Still, there’s a whole lot to like in Kismet, things have changed. In one of my favourite exhanges, King talks to his very young daughter about what it will be like to be dead. It’ll be like dreaming, she concludes. In Rochon’s staging, we hear the recorded voices of the original conversation. King, who plays himself, and Venzon, who plays his daughter, sit with their backs to us. Their connection and their emotions register only in their gestures. This is Kismet at its delicate, heartfelt best.

KISMET, THINGS HAVE CHANGED Created by Emelia Symington Fedy, Daryl King, Anita Rochon, and Hazel Venzon. Directed by Anita Rochon. Created by The Chop and presented by The Cultch and the PuSh Festival in the The Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Tuesday, February 4, as part of the PuSh Festival.  Continues until February 8. Tickets.

 

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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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