Although I am an avid theatre enthusiast, never has a modern production resonated with me, as did yesterday’s performance of Problem Child and The End of Civilization by George F. Walker. The two one act plays directed by Chris Robson are set in the same dingy motel room, which instantly places the audience in line with the characters’ emotions. Immediately enticed by the energy of the actors, I sat glued to my chair and completely engrossed in the stories.
The first of the plays, Problem Child, borderlines between a humorous satire and dark realism of life’s obstacles. A troubled couple awaits a call from a social worker that has control over their future as parents. Each copes in their own way, however the anticipation is taking its toll and unmasks their weaknesses. Scott Button plays R.J, the father who becomes addicted to reality talk shows as a distraction from his own problems. His absurd calls to the networks with advise on improving treatment of people on the shows is a desperate escape from solving his family’s issues.
Meanwhile, his wife Denise, played by Melanie Reich, is struggling to stay sober from alcohol and cooperate with Helen, their social worker. Jordan Kerbs plays Helen’s character, which depicts our rule bound society, blinded by restrictions and clear distinctions of right and wrong. Her inability to think for herself and lack of humility frustrates Denise and hinders the process of child custody. A whirlwind of frantic actions by the parents and their drunk innkeeper played by Matt Reznek opens a comedic side to the story and shows that their love for one another is the only backbone to their existence.
The second play, The End of Civilization, toys with the idea of human vulnerability to oneself. The story revolves around a couple, played by Christine Bortolin and Mitchell Hookey that has come to town in hopes of finding work. Their life, which was the epitome of “normal”, changes drastically in the blink of an eye. The husband’s preoccupation with keeping his dignity in finding meaningful work serves as a catalyst for his own degradation. Through a detective mystery approach, the story reveals the many hidden vulnerabilities of people in their most desperate states. A funny twist on the text and an incredibly emotion driven performance of the actors is astonishingly compelling.
Laugh, cry and feel with the characters from February 9th –February 18th at 7:30pm-9:50pm at the Telus Studio Theatre of the Chan Center.
Tickets are available for purchase here.