Review: Circle Jerk (Soup Can Theatre, safeword, Aim For The Tangent)

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Circle Jerk is Raw, Experimental, Intimate Theatre

Circle Jerk (Soup Can Theatre, safeword, and Aim For The Tangent) is the collaborative effort of three Toronto based theatre companies. The show consists of four one act plays and their only connection to one another lies in the shared use of the first and last lines of dialogue. On a grander scale, connections can be found in each play’s effective commentary on the human condition. Circle Jerk is currently playing at the lemonTree studio.

Circle Jerk’s concept is both bold and intriguing. Four random lines of dialogue were selected out of hundreds that were previously submitted from the general public. These lines begin and end each play, acting as a bridge. It’s also worth noting that each play was written by a different playwright and done separately from one another. The result is much more cohesive than you’d think, with each story acting as a character study. And while a couple of the pieces are quite intense, all four remain both insightful and thought provoking.

Of the four plays, the most accessible is arguably Sex and This, which addresses death and grieving in the social media age. Written by Wesley J. Colford and directed by Jakob Ehman, the play manages to be both humorous and poignant-sometimes all at once. Tiffany Deobald and Carys Lewis give solid, energetic performances which shift tones at a quick pace. It’s no easy feat and both performers hold their own. The time dashes in the script also help maintaining the momentum of the play.

Maypole Rose, written and directed by Brandon Crone, was my favourite play. A stunning piece of theatre, it puts an intimate relationship under a magnifying glass and allows us to observe. Crone’s script is hilarious, heartbreaking, and perhaps most importantly, it’s bluntly honest. The performances given by Alexander Plouffe and G. Kyle Shields are both impactful and astonishingly real. So real, in fact, that you feel like a fly on the wall as opposed to an audience member. Together their chemistry not only anchors the piece, it brings it to the next level, which makes for great theatre.

Also worth noting is the group of musicians who provide musical interludes in between each piece. The pieces are catchy and are performed with an Andy Kaufman-esque approach that perfectly compliments the Circle Jerk experience. At times you’re left wondering if what you’re watching is really happening or just an act. The line between reality and performance become completely blurred.

In regards to the material, Circle Jerk won’t be for all tastes. With its intense themes, strong language, and sexual content, it could be too heavy for folks merely looking for an evening of entertainment. The intimate space and theatre in the round approach at the lemonTree studio only heightens the level of intimacy and this in turn could make certain audience members uncomfortable.

Basically, I wouldn’t recommend seeing this show with your parents. With its acquired tastes aside, Circle Jerk is challenging theatre that confronts its subjects head on without blinking. It offers strong performances, great music, and honest commentaries on who we are as people.

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Photo of Brandon Crone provided by Soup Can Theatre.

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