Staff Writer/Copy Editor
A crawlspace can be defined as an area of limited height that you cannot stand up in. Videofag’s world premiere of Crawlspace is presented in exactly that -- a small, intimate, crawlspace-like room.
Directed by Sandra Balcovske, the play is inspired by the true story of writer and performer Karen Hines’ experience of buying what she says is one of the “smallest houses in Toronto.” Her story became a National Magazine Award-nominated feature called “My Little House of Horrors” (Swerve Magazine). Now, ten years later, Hines documents her experience in this highly sensory play.
I knew this performance would be unlike anything I had ever seen before once the audience members were asked to wear slippers as “protective gear,” before entering the performance space. Audience members were then offered hors d’oeuvres and martinis, which fit perfectly with the subject matter. After everyone settled into their seats, the play began.
Hines takes the audience on a horror-filled, edge-of-your-seat adventure, in a tale about renting a small house that goes completely wrong because of a tiny crawlspace. Hines has the ability to go from being a soft-spoken, calm, house renter who is explaining her story, to a loud, madwoman who is dancing around the stage and telling the audience about an audition she once had. These two opposing personas make for a horrific, anxiety-driven play.
The play also has comedic moments, with Hines occasionally calling out certain audience members and looking them in the eyes, which keeps the audience immersed in the drama and wanting to find out more.
Hines is a natural on stage and moves around the small space with the elegance and grace of a true professional. Unfortunately, when delivering her lines, there were times when she would misspeak or stumble on her words, which made it evident that she was more concerned with remembering her lines word-for-word as opposed to simply acting out the scene with a carefree spirit and a few ad-libs when the occasion presented itself. Her somewhat lengthy monologues contained many awkward pauses, which were unnecessary and uncomfortable to sit through.
The set and lighting designs, by Patrick Lavender, are minimalistic and modern. The set is made to feel like the inside of Hines’ home and is complete with what looks like corn flour on the ground, hence the protective footwear. A white table is placed in the middle of the room, with small chairs around the stage for the audience to sit on. The environment is very cozy and it feels as though the audience is gathering for a house party. Small lamps surround the room and a chalkboard with the floor plan of Hines’ house on it is placed at the front of the stage.
Crawlspace is a cautionary tale that warns its audience about the world of buying and selling properties and allows home owners and future home owners to gain a new perspective from this multi-dimensional performance, while simultaneously being entertained by its theatricality and brilliant realism.
Crawlspace is running at Videofag (187 Augusta Avenue) until Sept. 29. For more information visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crawlspace-tickets-18171041073.