Playwright Michael Ross Albert perfectly captures the hilarious chaos of a conference call in One Four One Collective‘s The Huns playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Guloien Theatre for the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival.
When high-maintenance manager Iris (Breanna Dillon) calls a “fifteen-minute” conference call Friday morning with temp manager Shelley (Cass Van Wyck), frustrated employee Pete (Jamie Cavanagh), and the rest of the global offices to discuss precautions after a robbery, things seem simple.
All they need to do is quickly establish precautionary measures for the future.
Of course, it quickly devolves into a hilarious, chaotic back and forth brought to comic heights by perfect casting, perfect timing, and pure relatability.
Dillon is brilliant as a manager afraid of losing her job, unable to be positive or nice no matter how she tries. I don’t think there could be someone more true to the role, to be honest. Every time she thanks her colleagues for their patience, you can’t help but wonder if she’s envisioning a much nastier scenario in her head.
In contrast, we have the down-to-earth Shelley whose declarations of ignorance about her job and repeated attempts to put out (metaphorical) fires makes you think you have the one sane person on-stage. Spoiler alert, no one’s sane here.
There is a gold-mine of comedy when she finally lets loose. Van Wyck nails a person just trying to survive employment to “buy the good cheese” in the grocery store but thwarted at every turn by, well, everything.
Only Cavanagh’s Pete seems somewhat out of place, serving primarily as a catalyst for secrets to emerge about workplace politics. It doesn’t make him any less funny as frustration levels rise and he struggles to understand what he’s unleashed.
The Huns is everyone’s conference call nightmare brought to absurd life. Director Marie Farsi and sound designer Andy Trithardt created an incredible experience wherein you have all the standard characters on a phone call without any need for literal physical presences.
Done entirely over the phone, we get a whole cast of other, very familiar, characters. There is the caller who can’t hear anything and repeatedly hangs up and calls back in, the department that forgets to take their phone off mute while answering questions, the group that abandons the call when fifteen-minutes is up.
You know this board room. You know these callers. Iris, Shelley, and Pete could have walked out of any major company and on to the stage.
The Huns delivers a hilariously believable hell that the audience knows won’t change by Monday morning, because with co-workers like these, who needs enemies?
- The Huns plays at the Streetcar Crowsnest Mainspace. (345 Carlaw Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; sexual content; not recommended for children.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Friday, July 5th, 9:30 pm
- Saturday, July 6th, 6:15 pm
- Sunday, July 7th, 8:30 pm
- Tuesday, July 9th, 7:30 pm
- Thursday, July 11th, 5:30 pm
- Friday, July 12th, 10:15 pm
- Sunday, July 14th, 4:00 pm
Photo of Breanna Dillon, Cass Van Wyck, and Jamie Cavanagh by Steven McLellan