Bree Greig and Marguerite Witvoet
Photo: Barb Gray.
Richardson’s occasionally deranged sense of humour and eye for the poignant are well-paired with Hille’s partiality to the offbeat. The combination emerges in numbers like performer Bree Greig’s ode to transience, in which she sings about 300 stuffed penguins that she’d like to dispose of now that she’s finished university and is living, jobless, back at her parents’ home, and is aware that her youth is vanishing over the horizon. It’s a number that starts out funny and ends up wistful.
Dmitry Chepovetsky gives us a total scammer who offers, for a fee, to care for the pets of those who believe they’re going to be carted off to the ever-after in the coming Rapture. Chepovetsky, who’s a pleasure to watch, also depicts the just plain weird side of human desire when he sings an ad looking for someone to sit in a bathtub of noodles (cooked noodles, mind you) in a one-piece bathing suit. What part of the brain, you ask yourself, births such fantasies?
Earnest, frequently awkward and not necessarily skilled at turning a phrase or even spelling well, these advertisers can win our hearts. An unobtrusive soul played by Selina Martin is selling cat hats because her pet Snowman is clearly never coming back. The hats range from cute to “formal,” and Martin’s portrayal runs from humorous to vulnerable.
There’s also the creepy and lonely. At one point, Qasim Khan is a hoodie-wearing purse snatcher who discovers the phone number of his victim and calls her for a date. Khan later becomes a guy offering to pay $30 an hour to anyone who will watch over him while he sleeps.
Percussionist Mirochnick, who doesn’t have the vocal chops to do so, sings one song while Witvoet, who does have the chops but needs to up her volume, sings a handful. In one she refers to Craigslist ads as a kind of collective “note inside a bottle in the ocean.” That hope, faint as it may be, buoys the contemporary and often urban longing that this show is really about and which emerges time and again like the refrain of a song (Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design spotlights that refrain thoughtfully).
The show suffers from having a thematic and emotional arc but no narrative trajectory. However, that weakness doesn’t dispel its quiet charm and gentle jibing at human foibles. The show is too rooted in its own time to lodge a spot in the catalogue of great Canadian theatre but it is sweet and engaging and – to coin a phrase as Craigslist advertisers are wont to do – quintessentially Canadian.
Continues until Nov. 22. Tickets: NAC box office and Ticketmaster outlets, 1-888-991-2787, nac-cna.ca