To all you Torontonians who didn’t subscribe to the next big marketing initiative for a limited time only: what kind of consumers are you? Who in their right mind would skip fifty minutes of high-powered satirical commentary involving Nudity (okay, partial nudity), Free Beer, and a show that’s Good for Kids? Fired up by Wet Bullet Productions, this was a true theatrical playground for absolute mayhem.
Of course, there was a method to the madness. Everyone in The Box Toronto was abuzz with anticipation upon hearing that we would be witnessing a competition between capitalist artists, which would determine who will present the most successful marketing ploy, each using one of the three top selling points at fringe festivals: ‘oopsy daisy’ strippers, bamboozling businessmen with plastered smiles, and dumbed-down children’s entertainers. The goal of each contender was to tell a story about a dairy farmer, who was convinced to give up his land in favour of becoming a tech tycoon, using any of the three techniques.
This postulation was totally else world and tongue-in-cheek, though definitely effective as an allegory for audience hypocrisy. It set out to prove that despite most theatregoers’ pleas for tenacious and meaningful narratives, they’d nevertheless devour easily digestible and evocative entertainment. This was especially true of the ironic Good for Kids portion, which sneaked in innuendos for the adults.
Billy Simon (Tenihkie Brant) was ever so kind as to host the night’s events (more like restrain the others from killing each other), and introduced us to our contenders: Team Nudity (Hayley Pace as the foxy lady Cyndi Sionne and Adrienne Deeley as Chrissie Smith), Team Free Beer (Ryan Percival as Red Seltzmen, a go-getter so persistent even Scrooge McDuck would be impressed, and Adam Bromley as sot rock star Ronnie Rage of the Screaming Flamingos), and Team Good for Kids (Tijana Spasić as Ashley Gretsky and playwright Drew Murdoch as John Gretsky).
One neat feature designed by Raechel Vellyakuchetu (Raechel E. Kula) that encouraged audience engagement was the inclusion of a voting system, whereby viewers were given television remotes to point and click on a panel that corresponded to the team they felt did something exceptional at any moment of the show. Those who brought their own were guaranteed free beer (surprise, surprise).
The stars of this show were Pace and Percival, both of whom were among the lyricists and composers of the play’s musical numbers. My ham digits were constantly flicking the remote whenever these two were involved in some chaotic advertising spree. Pace had this sexy, Betty Boop gone bad angle going on, and her operatic singing voice was golden ambrosia to my ears, a light lyric soprano that was very reminiscent of the classic Disney-era princesses. She later transformed effortlessly into a rowdy chief deputy who car chased for thrills.
Percival was a charismatic magician of propaganda that I’d willingly trust with all my assets. He always had a plan and was naturally the first to capitalize on any idea. His comedic facial expressions whenever he was doing business, or just plain annoyed at setbacks, had me in stitches the whole way through.
That being said, the cast performed stronger as an ensemble than as individuals. This was particularly the case with Brant, Spasić and Murdoch. There was a fair bit of stalling during a couple of Brant’s monologues, which indicated that the show was partially improvised. Also, Spasić and Murdoch were perhaps a little too much of a contrast from the rest of the show, though they did own their roles as jolly and benign puppeteers.
Kula was also responsible for screen projections that enhanced the skits with in-your-face visual appeal, a potent mechanism common in advertisements. It surprisingly resonated well within such an already wild setting, as added gimmicks often create redundancy and too much of a distraction.
To try and wrap your head around this show’s concept is a fool’s errand, but it was an experiment that was nonetheless worth risking sanity over.
The One More Night Festival at The Box Toronto marked Wet Bullet Productions’ final performance of Nudity, Free Beer, Good for Kids. For more shows, visit http://www.theboxtoronto.com/.