The stakes are low in Unstuck
By Evan Tsitsias. Directed by Michael Dobbin. Presented by Screaming Weenie Productions in association with meta.for Theatre. At the PAL Studio Theatre on Saturday, March 16. Continues until March 23
I didn’t care a whit about the play’s central relationship, but one of the actors in this production seriously impressed me.
In Toronto playwright Evan Tsitsias’s new script, Unstuck, Matt decides to celebrate his 10th anniversary with Tim by inviting a guy named Jared over so that they can all have sex.
The script clearly intends to explore the strains that both monogamy and non-monogamy can put on a relationship, but Matt and Tim’s union is so unattractive that the stakes aren’t just low—they disappear from sight. Calling Matt an asshole demeans the orifice. Matt criticizes Tim endlessly. And he flips his arguments and actions around to suit his narcissistic needs: at one juncture, Matt comes on to Jared, gets him all hot, and then, having made a point, turns his back on him.
By far the most interesting thing about this mounting is Sean Harris Oliver’s work as Jared. The character is a wound-up bimbo who asserts his self-respect by saying, “Buying me a pumpkin spice latte does not guarantee you a blowjob.” Jared could easily come across as an idiot, but Oliver’s energetic commitment and comic timing make the guy a charmer.
And Oliver brings genuine vulnerability to his portrait. Playwright Tsitsias has stitched yearning and intelligence into Jared and, thanks to the actor’s responsiveness, you get to see Jared’s full range on-stage. There’s a subtle moment, for instance, in which Matt scorns Jared’s openheartedness, and hurt flickers across Oliver’s face. Acting is about listening, and Oliver is an excellent listener.
Kevin Kraussler is also a solid actor, and he works Matt’s meanness and melancholy for their full, though limited worth. Ari Solomon’s characterization of Tim is earnest but often slow and vague. Solomon has the most fun when Tim loosens up in the play’s second half.
Jared keeps talking about what a beautiful apartment Matt and Tim have, but the walls of Glenn MacDonald’s set are adorned with inexplicable medallions, and its doors are covered in purple polka dots.
I’m glad there’s still a queer theatre company in Vancouver, but Unstuck is not one of Screaming Weenie Productions’ finest offerings.