Hello CLV listeners,
This week we have 2, yes that’s right 2 reviews for you! First up Ryan Thom from the McGill Daily wrote a review, followed by David Ross’s review for The Charlebois Post. Thank you Ryan and David for these thoughtful reviews. Most of all we would love to read your own review in the comments section below. Let us know what you think.
Tabia Lau’s Indefinitely is a charming snapshot that could use a little more, well, definition
This month, pioneer podcast theatre company C’est La Vie brings us Indefinitely, by native Montrealer Tabia Lau, lately transplanted to New York City. A veteran of the up-and-coming theatre scene, with script-writing, directing, and acting credits at McGill University and the Montreal Fringe Fest to her name, Lau demonstrates her signature flair for tender-yet-charmingly-awkward poignancy and touchingly candid dialogue. Yet the emotional arc of this intimate one-act about a brother and sister saying farewell falls just shy of delivering on Lau’s considerable promise as a playwright; her characters never quite make it to the catharsis that all of us hope for in a good-bye.
Charlie and Clare, voiced by Michael Ruderman and Jasper Lim respectively, are a brother and sister whose shared lives are about to be parted by the inevitable occurrence of growing up: Charlie is about to leave home for grad school in the UK, leaving Clare behind in Toronto. Before he goes, he shares an illicit drink with his sister to say goodbye – and to come out to her as gay. The resulting conversation, written in impressive realism by Lau, and persuasively depicted by Ruderman and Lim, comprises the entirety of the play’s action.
The intimacy of Lau’s choice of setting has the potential to bring the audience some powerful emotional revelations. However, the characters never manage to go there – they are convincingly written, but never quite compelling. One looks for courage, for challenge, in a coming-out story, but Charlie drops the proverbial bomb on his sister and then drops the subject, refusing to face up to her surprise and disappointment. Clare hints at understandable anger and confusion at her perceived abandonment, but then just as quickly backs off, her forgiveness coming off as a little too pat. There are some real, important issues being raised here, such as: What are the barriers and silences that surround queer coming-of-age in Canada today? What is the difference between running away to find yourself and running away from responsibility? – but Lau doesn’t give her creations enough room to fully articulate the questions, let alone begin answering them.
Indefinitely is a snapshot, a skillfully rendered portrait in miniature of family, growing up, and growing away, but its intentions – and thus, its characters, are a little blurry around the edges. Like its characters, Lau’s offering wrestles with its own growing pains – the work of a smart writer on the cusp of finding a stronger voice.
Ryan Kai Cheng Thom is a queer writer and performing artist based in Montreal. They have been featured at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, the Vancouver International Poetry Festival, and are about to take part in a residency at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts. Memoirs of A Gaysian,vtheir biweekly column on politics, sex, and growing up queer can be found in The McGill Daily.
Indefinitely is C’est La Vie Theatre’s latest entry into the podcast theatre series. Written by Tabia Lau, the play is simple, telling the story of Claire and Charlie, siblings who share one last night together before Charlie, the older of the two, moves away to London to start his graduate school education.
Radio theatre is extremely challenging to execute. I remember listening to radio plays on the CBC with my father when I was child, and how I would close my eyes and enter the world, be it a café, a street, a living room, or whatever setting was being portrayed. I listened to Indefinitely twice, and closed my eyes on the second attempt… but found myself more interested in the sounds of a snow plow clearing the sidewalk outside my window. Indefinitely simply doesn’t create the atmosphere that one can enter into, and the tension that should be present between the actors is almost non-existent.
Lau’s script grates heavily on the listener. It relies too heavily on every after-school special and mid-nineties sitcom one could possibly think of. Brother Charlie is visiting sister Claire on his last night before moving away. They argue about how he grew up and stopped talking to her, how she borrowed his suspenders without asking but he forgot he had them so she can keep them anyways, and then a guilt-ridden conversation after Charlie announces he’s Gay. Claire, in the space of about two minutes, goes from screaming at Charlie about how she wasn’t ready, to her saying it’s ok if he’s Gay. Lau’s script contains no surprises, allowing the listener to predict the story within the first few minutes. Claire, played by Jasper Lim, is not believable in her role. Her characterization is thin, and while Claire goes through turmoil I found myself struggling to care. Contrastingly, Michael Ruderman executes Charlie with more depth, from the joshing-older-brother role to the advice-dispensing-brother role. The final blow to the performance that left me flabbergasted were spoken stage directions. Perhaps they are necessary at points (though I can’t recall any in anything I’ve heard before), but even more flabbergasting was upon Charlie leaving Claire’s room, a voice announces “Charlie exits.” Throughout the play, both Charlie and Claire enter and leave the room with foley effects. Why this sudden reversion to spoken stage directions? Indefinitely suffers from a script that packs too much content into its 20 minute length, a compression of time that seems impossible, and mediocre performance.
C’est La Vie Theatre has taken on a challenge in mounting podcasted plays. Indefinitely smacks of something recorded in mom’s basement, without much thought put into the need to create the atmosphere. This is an inventive medium, but it comes with its own set of unique challenges, and I very much hope that C’est La Vie realizes these challenges and steps up their game to meet them.