Review: What I learned from a decade of fear

by Lynn on January 22, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Part of Progress: The International Festival of Performance and Ideas.

Created and performed by: Beatriz Pizano Trevor Schwellnus, Lyon Smith
Director and Scenographer, Trevor Schwellnus
Sound designer and composer, Lyon Smith

We enter the Incubator at the Theatre Centre to find sheets of paper on the floor with numbers on each sheet. Beatriz Pizano and Lyon Smith alternate putting a piece of paper under an overhead projector, writing a number on the paper and quietly speaking into a microphone to explain what the number means: the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan; the number of people killed by police; the number of people arrested for certain crimes; the cost of war etc. After each explanation the speaker says “Thank you,” and carefully puts the paper with the number on the floor. The statistics are daunting.

At an early point in the play Beatriz Pizano explains she is an actress playing an interrogator. Lyon Smith is the actor playing the person interrogated. The questions are simple enough: What did he have for breakfast? Does he like jam on his toast? If his children were threatened would he kill the person who threatened them? The means of interrogation becomes more aggressive, repetitious, trickier as the interrogator tries to trip up the person being interrogated. The person interrogated in turn gets more and more agitated when he falls into the trap.

Beatriz Pizano, Trevor Schwellnus and Lyon Smith have created a play that illuminates the fear of the stranger, the unknown among us, how easy a confident life can be unsettled and fearful. In an age when we are bombarded by headlines that scream the latest atrocity and social media devotees who gleefully share and pass on the news of the latest horror, it’s a wonder we aren’t benumbed by it all. With quiet intelligence What I learned from a decade of fear goes to the heart of the fear, shines a light on it, and gives it a human face. The performances are fine, although I wish Lyon Smith would slowdown his speech and let what he has to say breathe and sink in. The video and projections of Trevor Schwellnus are arresting.

Produced by Aluna Theatre

Plays to Jan. 24, 2016.

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