Don't binge, it'll make you cringe

Milica Marković

Staff Writer/Fact Checker/Editor

With Binge Watching You Sleep, Daisy Productions and Kicks & Giggles collide in what is an oddly put-together and clumsily staged series of comedy sketches meant to hyperbolize and parody the trending issues and concerns of everyday life in Canada.

There seems to be a narrative amidst all this, in which a character obsessively observes other characters sleeping on the subway. Whenever one fails at keeping their life together, they join the expanding group of sleepers, garnering the attention of other passengers. This scene recurs after a string of scenarios. Though if I'm being honest, the production seems more focussed on its antics and throwing everything it can at the audience than on any coherent storytelling.

My immediate gripe with this play is that it's not really adding anything new to literary satire. Instead, it panders to the audience by shoving jokes and tropes in our faces that we've already seen before.

Now, to the performers' credit, they've come up with a script that does showcase a couple of scenarios that people probably wouldn't otherwise consider, like how couples might react to someone dining alone, or the horror an older couple is subjected to while listening to radio erotica. And some of these do trigger a lot of laughs due to some clever writing and well-timed expressions. The most hilarious scene is when (Laura Salvas) as a good cop keeps requesting a bad cop to help her solve a murder mystery, only to get an archetype that rhymes with bad each time. The way she succumbs to insanity had me in stitches, and the moment she realizes she's the real bad cop after murdering the suspect, complemented by a gritty, blood-red spotlight and terrifying music is the pinnacle of comedy gold. 

But most of the time, I found myself laughing out of pity rather than genuine praise. Most of the dialogue is forced and awkward, although I feel it has more to do with how the lines are delivered. While most of the actors truly are working with what they've got, there are instances of line flubbing and incomprehension, and actors often block one another on stage. The music also tends to drown out the actors' voices, despite it being a pleasure to hear familiar tunes such as "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson, "Under the Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid, and "Every Breath You Take" by The Police as they suit the nature of each sketch.

There are a few scenarios that might get viewers to re-evaluate their attitudes towards certain topics, like whether Facebook really is telling us how we should feel, whether we are perhaps too controlling and yet hypocritical in relationships, whether we are moving too fast in relationships without actually getting to know our partners and accepting them for who they are, or whether or not travelling to understand and sympathize with other cultures is better than appreciating where you live. 

Maybe the reason why the show is so cringe-worthy is because it's purposely trying to reinforce how unlikeable these characters are to get people to reconsider their outlook on things. But I guess it's just not done in very good taste, at least for me.

I believe that this production could be reworked in one of two ways: literally make binge watching someone sleep the whole premise of the show, because it would challenge and spark opportunities for creativity, or, just go for straightforward improvisation, using these scenarios as the basis for audience participation. I'd be forgiving of a lot of the shortcomings in the performance.

But as it is, it's confused, crass, and contrived. I sense a lot of talent, but the actors' capabilities are not being put to good use here. If you're into this sort of thing, no problem; there are several legitimately humorous bits and possibly even a degree of wit. But it's simply not for me. 

Directed by Maddox Campbell, Binge Watching You Sleep is playing until Jan. 23 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre at 12 Alexander Street. For more information visit http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/binge-watching-you-sleep/2016-01-22/.