Written by Elysse Cheadle. Directed by Marc Arboleda. An Elysse Cheadle production, with presenting partner Mind of a Snail Puppet Co. A rEvolver Festival presentation. At the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab on Thursday, May 24. Continues until June 3
With Fuchsia Future, an offbeat musical about a family coping with the tragic loss of its patriarch, Elysse Cheadle proves an inspiration to the DIY set.
Unpretentious and experimental, with a huge heart and a wickedly clever brain, Cheadle is the writer, producer, and colead actor of Fuchsia Future, one of the strangest and most bizarre local plays in recent memory.
Convoluted but restrained, simply staged but artistically complex, Fuchsia Future was inspired by George Price, a real population geneticist who ended up taking his own life after attempting to disprove his own scientific theory about altruism. But rather than focus on Price, who doesn’t appear as a character in the piece, Fuchsia Future imagines a fictional son, Paul (Cheadle), and Ma (Carmine Santavenere), who must redefine themselves after Price vanishes. Paul suspects the mysterious neighbour, Mr. Frown, of having some responsibility for his father’s absence, while Ma recounts her and her husband’s shared love of everything bread-related and their mutual hatred of birds or, as she calls them, “wretched sky monsters”.
Also on-stage are three musicians who sing songs and provide a live soundtrack to highlight everything from walking to chewing to a house imploding. Often the trio’s contributions serve to heighten the absurdity, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. They harmonize and turn baking equipment into percussion instruments, and one even plays the banjo.
As Paul, Cheadle excels at delivering long lines that are often as ridiculous as they are poignant (“Ma! You know I need to be alone with my contemplations!”). It’s both Cheadle’s writing and his delivery that make Paul so endearing. Santavenere is the real scene stealer, though, and is an absolute joy to watch as Ma. Whether rolling across the floor or kneading dough or doing some soft twerking, Santavenere is a gifted physical comedian and an engaging presence on-stage.
Santavenere also gets some of the best lines, including a recitation of the long list of bread-related terms of endearment she had for her husband. (“My little yeast beast” and “My perfect crust thrust” are just two that I managed to write down.)
Fuchsia Future is packed with these laugh-out-loud moments, and yet it never shies away from its dark side either. Cheadle knows the symbiotic nature of the two extremes, and that’s what makes Fuchsia Future so refreshing. It’s wildly entertaining, genuinely affecting, and utterly a creation of Cheadle’s singular vision.