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Above the Hospital: millennial angst, some promising writing, and one excellent performance

by | Jan 14, 2018 | Review | 0 comments

Beau Han Bridge wrote and directed Above the Hospital.

Tristan Smith’s Cameron (L) is the putative protagonist of Above the Hospital, but Mira Maschmeyer’s Lauren steals the show. (Photo by Chris Cho)

Above the Hospital is kind of like a rummage sale: there are treasures on offer, but you’ve got to sift through some junk to get to them.

This new script, which was written and directed by Beau Han Bridge, is about the confusion and despondency some millennials seem to be experiencing. A couple whose names are Lauren and Cameron moved to Vancouver from a small town in Ontario four years ago with dreams of making it as artists. But their aspirations haven’t panned out. Having realized that she is a mediocre filmmaker, Lauren has quit film school and is studying to be a nurse. Cameron’s dreams are dying harder. He is working as a furniture maker, but he still really wants to be a musician—although he’s doing sweet nothing about it.

Cameron the dreamer and Lauren the rationalist continue to profess their love for each other, however, and they defer the changes they need to make in their lives by smoking too much dope and drinking too much alcohol. The tension between them ramps up when three extremely drunk, stoned friends turn up at their apartment with a fourth character, a mysterious party girl, in tow.

The glue of disappointment, confusion, and inertia that playwright Bridge has created is intriguing in some ways. It’s possible to see Cameron and Lauren’s disappointment as a product of immaturity. But maturation is an interesting process. And there’s a sense, in observing millennials that they might have been duped by their parents into thinking that they’re a lot more special than they really are: banging your head on that realization can’t be easy.

Besides, the economic realities they’re facing are undeniably tough. Increasingly, our culture is marginalizing artists as it devalues contemplation and monetizes everything in sight. Besides, Vancouver is a ridiculously expensive place to live. Cameron and Lauren have been living in the same shitty apartment near Broadway and Main ever since they arrived in Terminal City and they’re still finding it hard to make the rent.

So, on some levels, there’s a gritty sense of authenticity to Above the Hospital.

And there is one excellent performance in this production. Mira Maschmeyer, who’s playing Lauren, is so grounded, so responsive, and so perfectly colloquial in her delivery that she is always fascinating to watch. Even when the script makes Lauren say unlikely things, Maschmeyer’s characterization makes her feel as authentic as cold coffee if you know what I mean.

Both the script and the production lose their bearings in some ways, though.

For one thing, although the play deliberately sets out to talk about art, nobody in the play is a credible artist. Cameron, the script’s primary embodiment of artistic ambition, is an obvious phony. He claims to be working on original material but, even though he and Lauren have been living together for four years, he has never let her hear any of it.

Even if you accept that Cameron’s phoniness is the point, this dynamic is unrealistic. Why would Lauren put up with Cameron’s secrecy? How could Cameron continue to credit his own bluff?

Their friend Zack is a painter, but Bridges never puts his work in a meaningful context. Mostly, we just see Zacks’ shenanigans as an intoxicated idiot.

The other side of the supposed dialectic, Lauren’s argument for pragmatism, is just as crudely presented. I can’t go into that without giving too much away, so let’s just say that Lauren undergoes a less than credible transformation in Act 2.

And why has Bridge presented rationality and artistry as being in opposition to one another? How about the option of pursuing a realistic path, a grown-up path, in the arts?

The heart of the play is in the Lauren/Cameron relationship but, as far as I can tell from this production, only one of those characters is interesting. For the most part, the additional four visitors feel like static.

On opening night, Tristan Smith, who’s playing Cameron repeatedly upstaged himself and it’s hard to hear Emma Young, who plays Natasha.

For me, Maschmeyer’s performance is the real find of this production. And Bridge shows promise as a writer: he’ll be better when he acquires more focus and discipline.

ABOVE THE HOSPITAL Written and directed by Beau Han Bridge. Presented by Midtwenties Theatre Society and the Red Gate Arts Society at the Red Gate Theatre on Saturday, January 13. Continues until January 21.


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