by Jason Booker
A strong production of a script that needs refinement, Concrete Kid only mildly appeals.
The debut production from Ray Jarvis Ruby, Concrete Kid tells the story of Jamie, a young Toronto woman who has recently finished high school and come out to her parents but is being sent to her aunt’s farm for the summer. Trying for one last hurrah before facing the countryside, Jamie obtains a fake ID and heads to her first Gay bar, where she catches the bartender’s eye (Lindsey Middleton in a strong supporting role).
Strong ideas abound from Erin Kehoe’s direction, including a well-staged game of twenty questions, gender-swapped parents and some wonderfully energetic choreography that served to move the story from place to place.
However, Jamie (Annelise Hawrylak) comes off as so loaded with attitude, she becomes almost unbearable to watch. How can an audience root for someone who doesn’t have any friends, snarks off at people who are kind to her and yells at her parents for inexplicable reasons? Her unclear journey just isn’t worth going on.
And what makes the show make less sense is that Jamie often speaks directly to the audience. Her rationale for everything – her thoughts, actions and feelings – should seem crystal clear but they aren’t. Instead, the beautifully hard-hitting poetry of her language gets lost in static staging (newsflash: speeches in a downstage centre spotlight are dull) and the monologue delivery style turns the beauty of the language into just another pile of words.
Finally, the ending of the show turns into a bizarre anthem of choral speaking without focus or concentrated metaphor, resulting in a list of things that “I am” that the audience cannot easily connect with. Whatever conclusion about the situation or characters that the writer wanted to articulate doesn’t come across, instead the play loses itself to a style moment. And the ending comes too abruptly. The tale is really of one night’s escape and self-discovery, but the outset of the show failed to express the scope of the narrative, so this critic wondered if Alex the bartender and Jamie ever do speak again, or if that one night is meant to be a beginning for Jamie taking on this new world of concrete and glass: the Gay city.