How Should You Be? is as varied and dynamic as life itself

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Devised by Architect Theatre. Directed by Georgina Beaty. At the Cultch on Tuesday, May 13, as part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival. Continues until May 24

A single hour bursting at the seams with creative vitality, How Should You Be? is as varied and dynamic as life itself.

The play was originally devised just over a year ago as a student project for Studio 58’s Risky Nights series. The creators, not all of whom appear in this production, interviewed people from all walks of life—a Sikh priest, an acupuncturist, a drag queen, a plastic surgeon, and dozens more—seeking words to live by.

Those people’s stories became the basis for a script that deals with both quotidian concerns, like how to survive a boring job, and some bigger questions fundamental to our existence as humans.

One thread that runs through these stories is that all of us are full of contradictions. Sometimes they’re funny: the Sikh priest pauses mid-interview to take a call on his smartphone. Sometimes they’re moving: a former stripper tells of the joy she now finds singing in a gospel choir. And sometimes they’re painful: substance abuse takes a toll on the health of a boss who’s been a role model for his young employee.

In the hands of these energetic performers, they are never boring.

The show’s style—a pastiche of storytelling, improvisation, standup, spoken word, and choreographed movement—is every bit as lively as its content. Director Georgina Beaty shows an exquisite attention to detail in her beautifully minimalist staging: the performers create gorgeous pictures using nothing but wooden stools and small lamps with brightly coloured shades wrapped in string.

The ensemble—all freshly minted graduates of Studio 58—execute the show’s many transitions seamlessly. Caitlin McFarlane’s terrifically deadpan delivery and killer timing in a number of standup comedy bits (one begins: “I was on my break from being a hair model for Conair…”) make her a talent to watch. Brett Willis contributes an affectingly understated monologue about becoming conscious of the degree to which every aspect of our lives involves the exploitation of someone elsewhere. Zac Scott’s story of the addicted boss morphs into a passionate spoken-word performance.

And there’s an infectious joy to the improv games that are interspersed with the scripted portions of the show.

How Should You Be? may not answer all your questions about life, but you’ll enjoy being there.

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