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Three Little Pieces — with big hearts

by | May 24, 2020 | Review | 0 comments

Vagrant Players, Three Little Pieces

David Lennon and Stephanie George try for love at first click in the age of COVID.

Who wants to be seduced? I’m not talking about hard-wired seduction, the kind that’s all about your junk. I’m talking about the kind that opens your heart to irrational possibilities — like love — the kind that sets you floating in the universe and leaves you feeling a little drunk around the edges.

That’s what playwright Bill Marchant’s How Soon Is Now? is about. How Soon Is Now? is the third short play in the triptych Three Little Pieces, an online event presented by Vagrant Players Theatre Society.

In How Soon Is Now?, a man and a woman meet on a blind video date during the time of COVID-19. With his pale blue eyes, reddish beard and curls, the guy (David Lennon) looks like a pre-Raphaelite angel. The seducer, he tries to convince the woman that there are stars beyond her stuccoed ceiling, even in the middle of a sunny afternoon. Played as sleekly urbane — and a little neurotic — by Stephanie George, the woman is unimpressed. Rationally, she resists.

Under Kris Neufeld’s direction, both performances are full-bodied in their natuarlism and there’s a delicious hum of tension between that naturalism and the poetic, sometimes philosophical content of the script. In its provocations and hesitations, the tone of the conversation is ordinary — as the characters debate the likelihood of knowing one another in parallel dimensions.

It’s tender. I won’t tell you what the climax is, but I will tell you that it inflamed my skin hunger, the longing for touch that I’ve been feeling since the beginning of the lockdown. That’s another really smart thing about How Soon Is Now?: it simultaneously exploits the intimacy and alienation of online communication.

If you want to watch this half-hour piece, it starts at 1:04:35 on the YouTube video, but the other one-acts are also worth seeing.

By the way, if you want to start at the beginning, the video is a recording of a live broadcast and they had difficulty launching. There’s a lovely moment at 18:50: after several failed starts, the technician whispers, “God damn it!”

The show starts at 35:26 with playwright Lou Ticzon’s Forty-Six Years.

Best friends Lucas and Amelia are having a video chat — also during the pandemic. In an unlikely soliloquy when he thinks Amelia has muted their conversation, Lucas confesses to no one in particular that he’s been in love with Amelia since the third grade. Amelia, who’s married to somebody else, overhears so she and her pal have to figure out how to reguage their relationship.

The stakes are high. The tone is funny and intimate.

Under Ticzon’s direction, Eryka Alanna (Amelia) doesn’t always resist the temptation to overact, but David Kaye is consistently authentic as Lucas and, when it really counts, Alanna stops being performatively wacky and pulls things back.

The middle piece, Brizna’s Birthday by Amanda Hiebert, is the most challenging in some ways.

Brizna gets a video call from her husband Henry, who has left a note — and left her — hours before.

Hiebert’s writing in sometimes witty. When Henry will only tell her that he’s in a diner somewhere, she shoots back, “Oh, you’re in a diner? Holy shit! Well, if I had any more clarity, I’d be the goddamn Dalai Lama.”

The terms of the couple’s estrangement are dramatic — Henry has been drinking himself into oblivion since the accidental death of their son — and that puts a heavy performance demand on the actors: “Let’s see you break down again!” Shane Leydon, who plays Henry, delivers solid work, but he struggles a bit under the burden.

And Hiebert’s dialogue sometimes turns purple. Telling Henry that she ignores gossip about their family tragedy, even though some people love the taste of malice in their mouths, she asks, “Do you think that I haven’t found myself locked between their cavities and blistered lips?” That’s not the kind of thing people say every day, so it’s impressive that actor Suzanne Hepburn makes it sound like it is.

Overall, I’m impressed by the consistent acting chops of this troupe. And every one of these scripts uses the small screen in smart and credible ways.

The company also raised $3,500 for the Vancouver Food Bank by making their opening night a fundraiser. You can still donate, of course.

Three Little Pieces is available on YouTube until June 1.


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