Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Labour

(photo by Dan Huziak)
Endless Cycles
by Jessica Yen

A socially awkward young man is stuck in the repetitive drudgery of a manual labour job that eats away at his psychological and emotional well being. Simply called 'the Kid', our protagonist struggles through an endless cycle of thankless labour. Surrounded by chauvinistic knucklehead co-workers, the Kid is isolated from anyone he might be able to relate to. It is clear that he is miserable - what is not clear is, who this person? What does he want? As an audience, we watch him suffer through scene after scene without any indication of what underlying desires he might have. He makes no attempt to break his cycle of toiling, nor does he give any clue as to how he ended up there; unlike the character of Gene who must work to support his family. The Kid is single, doesn't have kids and has no circumstances (that we know of) that make it necessary for him to stay in this shit job. He expresses no wishes or dreams to escape the life that he is currently in. It is difficult to invest in a protagonist when we are given no reason to care about him. 

Despite a lack of clarity in the storytelling, there are moments of redemption for certain characters; particularly Gene's breakdown, played nicely by Andrew Cromwell. There are segments of movement woven throughout the piece, which convey the repetitive and sometimes back breaking labour the workers are subjected to. I enjoyed the stylized representation of their tasks; there was no doubt that the work suggested was physically demanding and dangerous. 

In the end, there is no relief offered in this play. It grinds along with moments of humour peppered throughout. It is altogether quite grim, and seems to arrive at a dead end. With a greater focus on story and character arc, perhaps this play could find a way to lift off. But for now - very much like its central character -  it stays stuck in a rut with no way out. 

Feb. 5 - 9

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