To base a theatre play on a comic (and a popular one) is a brave move. Often, what works on paper does not work in a live show. Comic characters are very hard to translate into reality because of their exaggerated traits and freedom of physical movement, which is possible only in a space not encumbered by gravity. The Ottawa-based company “Troupe de la Lune” chose to do just that. Their production of the play “Subnormality” is inspired by a web-comics series of the same name by the cartoonist Winston Rowntree which is published bi-weekly on Rowntree’s webcomic-site. Its main characteristics are satire, absurdity, weird, often unearthly characters and very long monologues and dialogues presented in “thought balloons.”
“Troupe de la Lune” follows the original premise and introduces nine seemingly completely disconnected protagonists, each one with his or her own issues. They meet in a bar where they spend what looks like an ordinary night-out. Anneliese is on a date with a man she met through a dating agency. At another table, there is the pink haired, “no confidence, no personality” girl. Listening to an elderly man lecture her, she learns how to say no, an act she could not perform when he first sat by her. Then, there are two drunken hypocrites, a man hoping to have sex with a girl he admires although it becomes obvious that she only talks to him to get a free drink. Finally, there is Ethel, the server who talks to customers in order to stimulate business and who connects their stories. Everybody talks but no one listens. No one, that is, except a homeless girl in front of the bar.
The play concentrates entirely on the characters. It makes a mockery of their words, contrasting them with their thoughts. This exposes their attempts to be something they are not.
Newton, Robertson and McEown make a good choice of vignettes to portray and find a way to connect the protagonists to each other. They employ a “frozen picture” effect and cardboard word bubbles to distinguish the real dialogue from what is going on in the characters’ heads, successfully presenting the “said versus intended” dichotomy.
The script is well written, the staging simple and functional. The story might be a little bit naive, but there is enough in it to make us think of ourselves and how often we do the same.
It is true that this is not a very ambitious, experimental or innovative piece of art. It lacks originality and good acting. Still, I would call it a real summer play: funny and entertaining. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the show and greeted every vignette with laughter.
All proceeding of the production will go to Jer’s Vision, a local charity that addresses bullying and discrimination in schools and youth communities
By Winston Rowntree
Directed by Sarah Newton
Adaptation: Marie Robertson and Sarah McEown
A Production of the Troupe de la Lune