Ottawa writer Megan Piercey Monafu pries the lid off the can of organized religion in this new work.
Performed by five actors including Monafu, the verbatim theatre piece is based on interviews with Canadians, both believers and non-believers, about all sorts of religious issues from gay marriage to whether apologies by powerful wrongdoers cut any mustard at all. The text – mostly monologues – is given various settings: in one scene, the speaker is in a restaurant with the other performers miming the role of servers; in another, we watch the actors as they rock to and fro on the Montreal Metro. At one point, the ensemble does a funny doo-wop routine; elsewhere, they sit on the floor drinking wine and earnestly discussing their beliefs.
The scenes about gay relationships remind us that while sexual orientation has long ceased to be even noticed by many Canadians, for some – including certain churchgoers – homosexuality actually remains a major concern. However, Monafu seems not to have an agenda other than exploring perspectives on faith-related matters and she leaves it up to us to judge which perspectives are absurd and which might hold some water.
There are multiple problems with all this.
For one thing, Monafu fails to establish any kind of dramatic arc, narrative through-line or even focus. Scene follows scene, topic follows topic (although some are returned to for amplification). In brief, she’s taken on too much.
In taking on too much, she’s also made it too long. Despite the mimed and other actions, the play is a talk fest in desperate need of editing.
And while the performers under director Kelly Rigole do try to differentiate their characters, they lack the acting chops, material and direction to do much more than create people like a stereotypical gay man or a self-indulgent seeker of truth.
Verbatim theatre can be fun and insightful, a fresh slice of real life when dealing with issues both big and small. Freshness is at a premium here.
Lori Jean Hodge
Megan Piercey Monafu
Continues until Jan. 31 at various venues. Information: 9th-hour.ca