I’ve decided to drop the numbers from the titles and just state that this is a review. As always, this review may contain spoilers.
I’ll also mention that I am a supporter of this company.
Tonight I went with my Fringe series group to see “Lungs,” by Duncan McMillan, staged by Theatre by the River.
Before going into the content of the performance, I’d like to say that this play is a challenge for both the performers and the audience. The play is staged with no costumes, no sets, no acts, no changes in lighting, music, etc. For the actors this is a challenge for they get no break, they have to be in the moment, for the entire duration of the play. Fortunately, Derek Leenhouts and Mel Marginet pull this off effortlessly. They are in tune with both the story and each other throughout. For the audience it means paying very close attention to what is happening in front of them, in order to tell when each new scene begins. Again the work of the two actors makes this reasonably simple for anyone who is being attentive.
The play begins with M (Derek) suggesting to W (Mel) that maybe they should have a baby together. W’s reaction indicates that this is, at the very least, an ill-timed idea, for many reasons, not the least of which is that they’re in the middle of furniture shopping at IKEA.
From there the play works its way through the life and relationship of M and W. Throughout, the question of whether or not to have a child serves as the home position for the relationship dance. At different times throughout this dance, each takes the lead hoping, even expecting, that the other will follow.
At times, reason is at the forefront as they try to decide whether or not bring a child into the world. At times desire and other more impulsive and irrational behaviours drive their decision making process. As I was walking home after our discussion of the play, where it was clear that the rest of the group had seen their own lives and decisions mirrored on stage, I kept coming back to Blaise Pascal’s comment that: “the heart has reasons that reason does not understand.”
This quote, in many ways, sums up the battle both in and between M and W. Indeed the interplay between the two characters is both dance and battle. They continually both romance and wound each other, sometimes simultaneously, as they stumble towards making the most important decision in their lives.
In the end they make their decision, but not before several false starts along the road. Navigating all of these false starts and dealing with the wounds requires that the actors exhibit a wide range of emotion as well as pacing. It would be easy to let the sheer scope of the story to get away from the performers. Fortunately both Leenhouts and Marginet are up to the task, drawing us into their world.
The play is by turns, angry, hopeful, funny, sad, or to put it another way, much like life. Both actors do well in projecting these emotions to us, and both play well against each other. If the relationship dance at the center of the play is often awkward and clumsy, the dance between the two actors is so well done that even Len Goodman couldn’t find fault with it.
As good as the play was, however, it would pack a little more punch if it was about ten minutes shorter. 1h 10 would be better than 1h 20. While McMillan wishes to show a variety of situations couples go through, he could drop a couple of them. He could also perhaps drop the F-bomb count from 400 to around 350 in the interests of shaving a couple of minutes off the show.
Despite these two things, “Lungs” is a very good show, very well performed. Definitely put it on the list of shows to see. While there was a good crowd last night, there is no reason for this show not to be sold out every time. 4.5/5
Venue #25 -Absurd Machine Studios 72 Princess St. – 3rd Floor. Prepared to deal with quite a few stairs on the way to the theatre.