'Seven Stories': a feast of existentialism?

Heidi Wicks
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Playwright Morris Panych's "Seven Stories" opens as "The Man" (Edmund Stapleton), dressed in a black suit and bowler hat with a matching black umbrella, appears to be ready to float right off the seventh floor of an apartment building. There are seven lit apartment windows behind him, which give you the very heavy idea they are about to burst to life with the building's colourful array of inhabitants.

The first visitors the man encounters are a viciously bickering couple - Rodney and Charlotte (Chris Hibbs and Sarah Browne). Charlotte emerges in a slinky, long negligee, taunting Rodney mercilessly, threatening to toss his wallet plastic down to the street. Rodney emerges, screaming impatiently at Charlotte, until he eventually tries to strangle her. "You're quite unattractive when you're dying, did you know that?" he sneers through clenched teeth.

Edmund Stapleton plays The Man in Seven Stories playing at the Reid Theatre at Memorial University. The show runs until Saturday. All proceeds go to the Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmakers Fund. Submitted photo

Playwright Morris Panych's "Seven Stories" opens as "The Man" (Edmund Stapleton), dressed in a black suit and bowler hat with a matching black umbrella, appears to be ready to float right off the seventh floor of an apartment building. There are seven lit apartment windows behind him, which give you the very heavy idea they are about to burst to life with the building's colourful array of inhabitants.

The first visitors the man encounters are a viciously bickering couple - Rodney and Charlotte (Chris Hibbs and Sarah Browne). Charlotte emerges in a slinky, long negligee, taunting Rodney mercilessly, threatening to toss his wallet plastic down to the street. Rodney emerges, screaming impatiently at Charlotte, until he eventually tries to strangle her. "You're quite unattractive when you're dying, did you know that?" he sneers through clenched teeth.

It's quite an entertaining and engaging opening, but unfortunately gets old and goes nowhere fast.

Of course The Man interrupts the apparent murder, and continues to influence, and be influenced by, the inhabitants of the other windows. Other characters include a pseudo-British man named Marshall (also Hibbs), an uber-paranoid, insomniac psychiatrist (Sharon King-Campbell), a Christian woman who gave her mother an overdose and killed her (Becky Forsey), an elderly lady (Bev Doyle) and her nursemaid (Glenn Gaulton) and more.

The Man has conversations with all of them - usually involving the meaning of life in some way, shape or form. He chats with Marshall about the acting profession. "Imagine having a profession where you do nothing but pretend to be other people," he quips, fading in and out of his British accent, acknowledging that his Groucho moustache is fake, and more or less admitting that he has decided to inhabit a new role in life. He used to have another identity.

Hibbs has some great lines with both his characters, and inhabits both roles with strength, confidence and authority. He discusses his upcoming nuptials, how marriage is a trap, and discusses "counterfeit emotion, counterfeit everything." He seems to suggest that we all play a role in life, and that role can change throughout the stages of any one person's life.

Similarly, in a scene with King-Campbell's skittish psychiatrist, she insists that The Man take various types of medications - almost another way to escape reality.

A common thread through other conversations about everything from God, friends, and how you decorate your apartment seem to suggest the roles we inhabit throughout life. Whether we actually live according to how we desire to live, or if we're really just conforming to what other people want.

The message (if this is in fact the message) is muddled. For a philosophy professor or student, or an existentialist enthusiast, this play would perhaps induce giddiness. However, my impression was that this work is much over-philosophizing without ever reaching a point. A little too pretentious for my taste, but there are many who would disagree, I'm sure. This is an award-winning play, after all.

The stage design and lighting (Jamie Skidmore) was visually arresting and impressive - with a wonky line of apartments and multi-coloured windows. But the play unfolds like a weird dream, and many of the performances feel like they are in the same zombie-like, 'what's-it-all-about' state. The ending is pretty inconclusive on that point, and you don't really get the idea what the playwright thinks it's all about.

This production is by Bumber-shoot Production, which is a student-run production company formed out of Memorial University's Diploma in Performance and Com-munications Media course in Producing the Play.

Brad Hodder directs and is the course instructor.

If you're up for an evening of light, mindless entertainment, this isn't it. If you're feeling like a challenge, go see "Seven Stories" for seven bucks.

"Seven Stories" plays at the Reid Theatre at Memorial University, until Saturday at 8 p.m.

All proceeds go to the Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker's Fund. Call the Women's Film Festival office for inquiries at 754-3141. Tickets are available at the door prior to showtime.

Organizations: The Man, Diploma, Reid Theatre

Geographic location: Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker

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  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    a Christian woman who gave her mother an overdose and killed her (Becky Forsey)

    Actually, this character was played by Kelin Boyd. Becky Forsey's character was the party girl who liked to know as little about a person as possible.

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    a Christian woman who gave her mother an overdose and killed her (Becky Forsey)

    Actually, this character was played by Kelin Boyd. Becky Forsey's character was the party girl who liked to know as little about a person as possible.