counterFACTUAL: Maybe FACTUAL would be better

CounterFACTUAL takes place in a (more) dystopian version of Canada.

What? Why?

So much nothing happens in counterFACTUAL that I was genuinely confused when the lights came up. I couldn’t quite believe it was over. Wasn’t there going to be some kind of ending, some kind of resolution or at least an intriguing cliffhanger? But there was a curtain call. People started leaving. It really was the end.

When I say nothing happened, I mean nothing that I cared about.

counterFACTUAL takes place in present-day Canada but in an alternative reality. Folks are illegally modifying their genes all over the play and it’s not going well. Spliced-up chromosomes are recombining in nasty ways. The newly formed Biological and Genetic Threats Directorate is trying to get a handle on things.

So we watch as Santiago and Hundal, a male/female cop team, go on a call to a gene lab, where a nasty character named Øyborg Durukan is juicing up some Russian guy. Later, Durukan will reappear, having weaponized mutants.

But so what?

Santiago and Hundal’s relationship, which is central, is a cliché of hetero buddy cop-ism. They banter about her British accent. They work their way towards grudging affection. Virtually nothing is at stake.

And the genetic modification plot thread is a series of random episodes and plot turns that has no core. Playwright W. Thomas Gibson tries to create moral ambiguities, and surprising narrative twists, but they just muddy the water and block momentum.

Did I mention this isn’t a full production? The actors stand at podiums and read.

Most of the acting is okay. Because he’s really good at eccentric characterization, Seth Little is fun as the Russian guy and the head of the Biological and Genetic Threats Directorate.

But some engaging acting doesn’t make up for the dearth of engaging story.

COUNTERFACTUAL Written and directed by W. Thomas Gibson. A Spectral Theatre Production at Performance Works as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival on Thursday, October 1. Remaining performances: October 3 at 9:15 p.m., October 4 at 2:30 p.m., October 5 at 7:00 p.m., October 7 at 9:15 p.m., and October 9 at 7:00 p.m.. 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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