James Sanders ... as Morgan
Bob Frazer ... as Daniel
and a whole bunch of other awesome people.
I wasn't sure I wanted to see this play when I bought my subscription to Theatre Calgary. The synopsis in the brochure read:
It just didn't seem fun to me. Breathtaking aerial choreography means, to me, and I imagine other acrophobes, that I will hyperventilate by the mere thought of what they're doing on stage. Ill-fated skydiving adventure implys that someone dies and there will be all the associated emotions that are so difficult for people to deal with. And Vancouver brothers made me wonder if there would be local, or gendered, references that I wouldn't get being that I am neither a brother nor from Vancouver.
But it's cheaper to buy all the plays than all but one. So my sister and I both bought the full subscription, and I neglected to mention my aprehensions to my sister. I didn't want to leave her there all alone, and I didn't know anyone who could take my ticket. So I went.
It was worth it.
The play opens with the two brothers mid-air, skydiving. The older brother, Morgan, pulls his "parachute" and "slows down" while the younger brother, Daniel, "speeds up" and "falls."
Why the quotation marks, you ask. There are virtually no props in the whole play, there is no variation in background, the actors are suspended for almost the entire play, nothing seems to change, but everything does. It has the etheral feel of a dream, when, in the middle, you sit down on an imaginary chair and it holds your weight, and you're left supported but floating in the middle of nothingness.
The audience feels the intent; we can almost see the missing elements.
The stage goes dark.
When the light returns, they're standing there, together, both unharmed. Daniel says he dreamed of falling again last night. The mind concludes that the falling was merely a dream, the scene drifts out of the conscious stream, replaced by the current interaction. The seem like normal brothers. Except the obvious point that one has become agoraphobic, and the other thinks himself a therapist and wants to cure his brother.
The plot is amusingly far-fetched but drenched in this realism that it can't shake. Jarvis the goth, the 7-foot tall internet date, Stretch Armstrong's inner goo, Morgan's never-recorded album covers. Unusual but not unexpected. Online daters everywhere have feared that the 'perfect match' they met online would be abnormal in some way. And how many kids thought about cutting open their Stretch Armstrong toy to see why it stretched? The banter draws you in as Morgan and Daniel go through the basement, and Daniel's conscious, in a playful, childlike (and a little childish) way.
Interspersed are dream sequences. Daniel's mind displayed in crazy acrobatics, 80's music, and a fantastic monologue.
Remember the first scene? We're there, and the emotion hits. Daniel is falling, and Morgan is slowing. We hear the thoughts running through Morgan's mind as he releases his chute and tries to catch his brother. He does, but it's too late, his reserve chute doesn't have enough space to open fully. They're falling too fast, and Daniel slips from Morgan's arms.
All that attachment the audience gains throughout the play, it seems wasted at the end. A cruel trick. But then the theatre lights come on, and it's over. The applause is delayed; we're all waking up from another falling dream, this time as voyeur. The woman beside me is crying, my sister looks confused, and the applause makes up for being tardy by staying late. We begin to filter out, still quiet, feeling touched, maybe even changed. But like the scenery of the play we're unaltered, but our maleable perception thinks things have changed.
The crowd begins to split into smaller, more intimate groups. They start to chatter. My sister and I head towards the parkade. In the elevator we finally speak. "Want to go skydiving?" she asks.