Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: (Toronto) To Myself at 28 (SummerWorks)

Towards a Great Play
by Lisa McKeown

What would it be like to go back in time and tell your younger self all the things you know now but wish you’d known then? That’s exactly what Sky Gilbert explores in his new confessional comedy. Of course, the way that conversation might go in your head is different from how it would play out in real life (or even in a dramatic staging): your younger self could talk back, for example, which is exactly what happens to Gilbert. Sure, it’s easy to think you’d do things differently, but is that really the case? The hard lessons we know now weren’t earned easily, and it’s not as easy as simply telling oneself the answers – it’s the lesson that parents need to learn in relation to their children: most of the time, you need to allow people to learn things the hard way. And that includes yourself.

The play explores the fear and self-loathing of being a young (and old) Gay man. “Do you want to know why there are no happy Gay men?” Gilbert asks. “Well, it’s because there are no happy Gay men; no one knows how to be a happy Gay man!” The play reflects on how his ideas of ambition, success, body issues, and the reality of relationships (romantic and otherwise) have evolved. The staging is clever, using a lot of low-tech devices such as a projector and a flashlight, as well as battery-powered candles that make up a reflection of a starry night sky. The script is witty, and often self-deprecating, though at many points Gilbert seemed to dwell mostly on the surface, and often the humour seemed to mask, rather than arise from, the deeper emotional truths that you can see lying underneath that never quite get explored.  Gilbert is at times so concerned to share what he’s learned he forgets to give us the darker details about how he got there. Giving us more of that would definitely add depth and interest to a story that is coming from an interesting place, but not quite at its final destination. 

To Myself at 28 is at SummerWorks

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