The Art of Building a Bunker is a voracious and violating one-man show.
It is a hodgepodge of racism, sexism and homophobia that certainly serves its purpose – to shock and disarm the reserved Torontonian theatre-goer.
Bunker, written by Adam Lazarus and Guillermo Verdecchia (and directed by Verdecchia) completed a successful run at the 2013 SummerWorks Festival, before the duo transformed it into its current version.
What happens when you throw an insensitive person into mandatory sensitivity training? Well, he’s asked to hop on a metaphorical canoe of “growingness” and “understandingness.” Then, he starts to unravel really quickly. And while he thinks he can outsmart Cam, the training leader, and the rest of this peers, he soon learns there is no getting out unscathed.
Elvis (Adam Lazarus) lives in a world where it is acceptable to mock people’s accents, make overtly racist jokes and objectify women – a world where his wife sounds like a slightly more audible version of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Everyone’s out to get him. His only escape is his bunker – a place where he can be alone, strip down to his skivvies, play the ukulele and rub Portuguese chicken all over his legs.
In terms of the script, this is a work-in-progress and it is still doing some surface scraping. Is it funny? Yes. Can it go further? Absolutely. There are monumental themes presented here that can definitely be explored with more depth and a more serious tone. The only thing I love more than a good laugh is when it’s followed by a good cry or a theatrical punch to the face. That’s what this show is missing. Hit me.
Lazarus’ outrageous bouffon performance works wonders in this show. He goes through his repertoire of different characters from all walks of life and he switches them up effortlessly, without missing a beat. His vast collection of character voices, energies and types of body language has the audience in stitches, moment after moment.
The set design by Camellia Koo perfectly accents Elvis’ world. A structure made of pieces of disconnected pipe. It isn’t beautiful, but it stands – and that’s more than we can say for Elvis. Hanging way over his head is that metaphorical canoe. And it’s certainly out of his reach.
Bunker begs the question: how do we, as individuals, function in society? The show gives us two options: face life’s hardships head on, or go home and drown yourself in sorrows and chicken grease.
The Art of Building a Bunker, presented by Factory Theatre and QuipTake is running until Nov. 2. For tickets and more information, visit www.factorytheatre.ca.