Written and directed by Beau Han Bridge. A Midtwenties Theatre Society production. At the Red Gate Revue Stage on Saturday, January 13. Continues until January 21
What differentiates an artist from an aspiring artist, particularly in a city like Vancouver? Persistent action versus good intentions or privilege versus self-esteem? Could it be that “real” artists don’t waste time navel-gazing about labels and just do the work, make the stuff, create by compulsion, not quota? This is one of the central conflicts of writer-director Beau Han Bridge’s new play Above the Hospital, an ambitious, if underdeveloped, work that aims for such great heights, but ultimately falls short.
Lauren (Mira Maschmeyer) and Cameron (Tristan Smith) are in their mid-20s, and both have put their creative ambitions on the back burner to afford to live in Vancouver, the big-city answer to their small-town dreams. She was a filmmaker, but now she works at the F as in Frank vintage-clothing store and is studying to be an RN, while he is a woodworker who longs to be a famous musician. They’ve lived together for four years, and she’s never heard a single original song of his when he quits his job so that he can record his demo and get his big break.
They fight and when their drunk pals stop by, the battle is temporarily on hold, though the respite doesn’t last. Bridge nails the drunken, middlebrow musings about philosophy and art and Meaning of Life stuff perfectly, but the script is so dialogue-heavy that the story beats are almost drowned out.
Cam is, I think, supposed to be several years older than Lauren, and he encouraged her to leave their small town when her mother was sick, because of his belief that “you have to leave your town” in order to be successful. Lauren is now finally wising up to the fact that Cam is kind of a phony: his three biggest influences are Ben Gibbard, Pink Floyd, and Conor Oberst, and he quotes lyrics from their songs as the foundation of his life philosophies, including “The Sound of Settling” and “Comfortably Numb” (a great writing choice by Bridge). For the audience members picking up on the musical references, Above the Hospital’s best moment is when Cam gets his comeuppance: “Shut your fucking mouth, you Dallas Green piece of shit.”
Only a few of the actors seem confident with the material, though, and at one point, it appeared that Smith forgot the words and actually exited the stage, leaving Maschmeyer totally alone. She handled it beautifully, and in fact, Maschmeyer is a force of nature on-stage and a real discovery here. But the moment was palpably awkward and only reaffirmed the feeling that everything about Above the Hospital just needed a little more time.