You Should Have Stayed Home (Praxis Theatre/The Original Norwegian) 2011 SummerWorks Review

We’ve certainly all heard things about the G20. If you’re a bit of a news junkie like me, you’ve read numerous accounts of the weekend. But I can pretty well guarantee you’ve never heard it as well told as Tommy Taylor’s You Should Have Stayed Home, which has more than lived up to its pre-SummerWorks hype.

Staged in a three-sided cage with the fourth wall serving as the fourth wall, an honest-to-god outhouse hulking miserably in the corner, Taylor – a classic Big Guy – does not look terribly constrained, at first. His friendly demeanor and engaging story, delivered mostly from behind a plain desk à la Spalding Gray, seem initially to be designed to transcend the brutal surroundings. Taylor recounts his pleasant evening, the grandmothers and hippies he encountered, the peace slogans and bubbles he saw. But whether because of Praxis Theatre colleague Michael Wheeler’s excellent direction or native theatrical instinct, Taylor gets stiller and smaller in the frame as the action turns worse and worse.

Midway, excellently timed to the narrative, a flow of bodies join Taylor onstage in the no-longer-theoretical 10-foot by 20-foot stage, bringing with them great intentionality. They moved and behaved as something between a chorus and kinetic scenery, taking positions in a series of tableaux and speaking only once to erupt in a rattling cry of “Water! Water!” I appreciated especially, in this section, Taylor’s choice to use an audio interview and the women in his chorus to talk about the ways gender played a part in detainee experiences.

So much of this show could have gone badly: it could have been maudlin, or self-pitying, or emotionally flat in a key of rage or political ranting. It could have been terribly boring, or so self-centred as to be unbearable. But it’s not. Taylor’s generosity and lively wit uplift the narrative, letting us enjoy his wonder, experience his helplessness, and share as much in this love for his now-fianceé as we do in his upset. You Should Have Stayed Home is in many ways the truest testament to the power of a likable narrator. Even Taylor’s stack of notecards – he wasn’t all the way off book when I saw the show on August 5th – didn’t detract from how much I liked the show, for which I have great enthusiasm.

Details

You Should Have Stayed Home plays at Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St W.

Thursday August 4th 5:00 PM
Saturday August 6th 2:30 PM
Sunday August 7th 10:00 PM
Wednesday August 10th 7:30 PM
Friday August 12th MIDNIGHT
Saturday August 13th 10:00 PM

-All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.ca, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

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