Friday, August 17, 2012

Play: I, Animal

I, Animal (Kazan Co-op, Dir: Richie Wilcox)

SummerWorks Festival (Factory Mainspace). Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

We are all animals. Cuddly and frisky, but may bite. There's something underneath our reason and carefully-constructed identities. Looks like it's up to something when you shine a light on it. Our urges, our instincts, carry us forward. Powerful, but willing to be controlled.

A new script from Daniel MacIvor gives us three monologues, each linked by the light of the moon above and by the speakers' unveiling their animal natures: a young nurse walking his dog talks about queer identity and social stratification; a hoodie-clad high-school student is known as "the dead cat kid" in the aftermath of a social media stunt gone awry; a jaded bourgeois fashionista dreams of the simplicity of being a girl with a pony.

The connections are left to the audience to fit together as they please, so there's probably going to be differing conclusions as to whether the exercise winds up as more than the sum of its parts. As character sketches, this triptych is variously successful. Stewart Legere impresses the most here as the high-school student who emerges from behind a wall of stoner cosmology to express the hurt — and possible usefulness — of being misconstrued and throught cruel. (He also gets in some good laugh lines along the way.) Kathryn MacLellan has the least to work with as an aging, pampered socialite, and though she identifies as a palomino rather than a cougar, the script never quite gives her the means to push the character beyond a stereotype. Antonio Cayonne, as a nurse who feels more confined by power dynamics than sexuality, comes somewhere up the middle, imbuing his character with a distinct personality.

The idea that animal urges underlie our human nature stretches back to antiquity and animates myths that still hold a power over us. In this play, MacIvor doesn't seem to be reaching for profundity so much as musing on how these atavistic urges affect our interfaces with contemporary society. Faced with transitional moments, it's the animal nature that guides each of these characters, though they each tell their stories as if it were something more reasoned propelling them along.

And perhaps that holds for all of us, never quite realizing that the stories we're constructing for ourselves, where we're the masters of our fates, and merely the thinnest of rationalizations. But I don't know that I found it to be all that revelatory, which I suppose is why this seemed at best to be "merely" a capable entertainment.

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