Speculative Trump-inspired comedy takes to the Toronto stage
The Political Science major in me was excited to see the play, It’s a Goddamn Stupid Life, now playing at the Solar Stage at Wychwood Theatre. It promised political satire in the near future (2025) when Trump has somehow managed to get a third term in office.
This play is not specifically about Trump, but about the political climate surrounding him, as seen through the story of Harvey Ubu (Damien Gulde) and the sex robot he has created, Mary Ann (Andrea Werhun), as well as the main character Dave Kafka (Neal Armstrong), a creative who just wants to be a jazz musician and is trying to put a perfect band together. These characters are perfect vehicles for taking a shot at the prevalence of misogyny and other capitalistic ills in society.
Writer Neal Armstrong is not afraid to tackle the tough issues that are currently raging, and the play is upfront that these issues will be addressed. One character is given a different name, but it is apparent which in-the-news character they are presenting, as Harvey Ubu is recognizable as Harvey Weinstein.
There is a lot to say, and this play takes the time it needs to say it. This is a long play, about three hours, counting some delays, but it did not feel that long, as there were many little scenes that kept my attention.
The scene that played while the audience entered the theatre was particularly interesting. It had a single human/robot hybrid that would occasionally move to a background soundtrack that featured robot-like beeps and boops. This was one part of the play that went on longer than was necessary, though it was opening night, so I suspect that some setting-up bugs were being ironed out. The audience got a little restless, but as soon as the opening scene started, everyone paid attention and was engaged. The theatre seats were a little hard, and difficult to sit on after a while. No regrets, though. It was worth it.
This play is not for those who are squeamish or shy about sex, but for those who are open to it, you will have a good laugh. I laughed out loud, really laughed out loud, throughout the play. I particularly liked the frank jokes about sex.
The actors had their work cut out for them. There was a lot of dialogue, and many of the actors took on more than one role. Andrea Werhun as the sex robot Mary Ann managed to straddle the robot/human aspects of her character, and Damien Gulde managed to bring just a little humanity to his deplorable character. Those who took on two roles did them both very well–and in particular, Lauren Van Klaveren was able to do the dual roles of the cool jazz singing Olga and the sexy, fawning Masoch–though they were quite different.
All the actors embodied their characters, aided by hair and makeup which made their roles more distinct. Well done, Natasha Malta. The wardrobe was appropriate for the characters and added flair, without being overt. Neal Armstrong’s frenetic performance as Dave Kafka was enhanced by his somewhat ghastly makeup and a jacket that featured jazzy details like golden saxophones.
The set was very simple, consisting mostly of just a chair and table, but the placement of the chair and table changed to indicate new scenes and a backdrop screen changed projected pictures accordingly. That was enough. Bugs figured prominently, with a moth video by James Harris thrown into the mix.
There was so much to see. I was accompanied by my friend Patti, who showed you don’t have to be a Political Science major to enjoy the show. She acknowledged that the play was long, but she was never bored, because the dialogue and humour were so good. She felt this play could be seen a few times, and you’d still see things you had previously missed. It would still be a goddamn stupid life, but it would still be worth watching again.
- It’s A Goddamn Stupid Life is playing at the Solar Stage at Wychwood Theatre until June 23, 2018.
- Shows run on 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 June at 7:30pm.
- Ticket price is $20.
- Tickets available online.
- Sexual content and mature themes makes this play unsuitable for children.
- Sexual content and mature themes are portrayed which could be triggering. Thursday shows allow audience members to leave and reenter during performance if there are triggering concerns.
- The show is performed on the Solar Stage of the Wychwood Theatre.