How did this show ever get programmed into the Arts Club’s season? The Arts Club is a professional company. Me Love Bingo!: Best in Snow is not of a professional standard.
For Best in Snow, set designer Ted Roberts has turned the Newmont Stage into a bingo hall, so most of the audience sits at long, bingo-style tables. The best thing about the evening is that it provides an opportunity to chat with your table mates. I want to thank the single gay man, the four female friends, and the handsome straight couple for being fun. I also want to thank my companion, who left at intermission and sent me a text saying, “I just couldn’t take anymore. I hope it’s over now.”
What’s wrong with Best in Snow? Pretty much everything. Kyle Loven, who created the show and directed it himself, also stars. Appearing in drag and going by his first name, Kyle, Loven is a hesitant, uncharismatic performer. As his assistant, Leslie Dos Remedios also delivers a flat performance. Only Joey Lespérance has any sense of stage presence. One cast member was absent the night I attended, but I doubt that explains the performance level.
The script is shapeless. Kyle leads us through a few games of bingo and tells us a story in scattered snippets. He informs us that we’re leading up to Festi-ball, a seasonal celebration for bingo lovers. Among the many other allusions to Christmas, Best in Snow is very loosely structured on the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
But, unlike in that classic film, there is sweet nothing to think about or be moved by in Best in Snow. Kyle tells us a sad-sack story about how hard it is to accept himself — presumably because he’s gay. Yes, lots of people still struggle with coming out but, in the theatre, this territory has been explored so many times so much better. Kyle gives us zero details — zero — about the specifics of his life; he just leans into the audience’s supposed obligation to feel sorry for him.
And his “journey of discovery” is so dumb: Kyle finds himself transported into the alternative reality of the Festi-ball fable — which doesn’t have a plot. What it does have, unfortunately, is affirmations: in the Festi-ball Forest, Kyle learns to look into a mirror and love himself. That’s it. There’s no depth. And, as its source for the “deep wisdom” of affirmations, the script cites real-life guru Louise Hay and her book You Can Heal Your Life, which made me so angry I felt like stopping the show. As this article in Slate points out, “Louise Hay’s spiritual pseudoscience harmed a generation of gay men” — specifically men struggling with AIDS diagnoses in the early days of that crisis. Hay taught that you can cure your own diseases because they’re caused by lack of self-love and other psychological issues. It’s bullshit that ends up blaming victims for their poor health if they “fail” to deal with their baggage. In many cases I’m sure, her teachings stopped people from getting proper and timely care for what was, at the time, a fatal illness. Why is Hay being valorized in a play that’s trying to affirm gay identity?
Act Two, blessedly, is shorter than Act One.
ME LOVE BINGO!: BEST IN SNOW Created by Kyle Loven. At the Newmont Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre on Thursday, December 8. Continues until January 1. Tickets and information
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