Theatre BSMT’s War feels disconnected

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

There is something that you notice immediately when you watch Theatre BSMT’s production of War by Dennis Foon. The characters talk in one word sentences, in a disjointed, disconnected style of language. Foon created his own slang language for the characters to illustrate how we use words as weapons. Unfortunately, the audience is left confused, both by the use of language and the events of the narrative.

War tells of four guys in high school who are learning where they fit in and what it means to be men. The play opens with a soliloquy from Shane (Josh Symonds) that is vague and doesn’t seem to be connected to the rest of the play. We then meet Brad (Andrew McKenzie) who is working out while Tommy (Brendan Andrews) tells him the story of how his girlfriend Sheila dumped him for Andy (Beau Barker) the actor. Brad agrees to be Tommy’s backup and the scene flips to Tommy threatening Andy for stealing his girlfriend. All of the dialogue in performed in this halting slang language that is hard to follow.
We then meet Andy, who is actually a sweet guy, who is learning how to make a fist by reading a book given to him by his father, who recently died from throat cancer. The story of his dad is well performed by Barker and it lends some emotionality to Andy, especially when the speech ends with his telling the audience that the last thing his father said to him was to be a man. He forgot to ask him how to do it.
Tommy then arrives with Brad and they start to beat up Andy, but Shane shows up in Andy’s defence. This is the start of a friendship between Andy and Shane, where Andy wants to learn how to be tough and stand up for himself. The relationship between Brad and Tommy also goes along a bumpy road, with Tommy wanting to make war and not peace, expressing his ‘manliness’ through aggression and revenge. War comes to its conclusion, without the characters really learning what it means to be a man.
The play features creative set design by Kathryn Smith in the small space of Motel in the Epcor Centre. The set is a couple of benches and cage like structures that get moved around the space.  Amy Dettling’s direction has  characters as statues in the background in different positions when they are not in a scene. Their poses tell a lot about their character. Barker’s Andy is usually in a shy and vulnerable stance whereas McKenzie’s Brad is always standing in an aggressive pose.
War features some uneven performances. Andrews tends to shout his lines to emit emotion, while McKenzie plays Brad without any dynamics throughout the play. Barker brings some spark to his character and Symond’s final soliloquy about his brother is quite well done.
Overall War deals with a pertinent topic of the role of men and what it means to be a man. But it is handicapped by Foon’s slang language, which creates a disconnect between the audience and the characters on stage.
Theatre BSMT’s War runs at the EPCOR CENTRE’S Motel until April 6th. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Shane (Josh Symonds) and Andy (Beau Barker) - Photo by: Amy Dettling

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