Review: SELFIE

by Lynn on April 30, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Christine Quintana

Directed by Stephen Colella

Based on the original French language version.

Scenographer, Claire Allison Hill

Projection Designed by Daniel Oulton

Lighting by Oz Weaver

Sound by Deanna H. Choi

Cast: Christopher Allen

Rachel Mutombo

Caroline Taol

Important issues of consent, responsibility, behaviour and sex are covered in this play but in spite of wonderful acting I wish it all didn’t seem like cliché.

The Story. Chris is in grade 12. His sister Lily is in grade 11 as is Lily’s friend Emma. Emma has just returned from a summer in Paris and Lily is envious and also happy to have her friend back home. Chris is sweet on Emma but has been too shy to tell her. Emma is also sweet on Chris but didn’t tell him. One night Chris and Lily throw a party when their parents are away. Chris and Emma share their feelings about each other. Lily takes a picture of them without them knowing, and matters escalate.

 The Production. Scenographer, Claire Allison Hill has created a set of various levels of platforms, some movable to suggest the changes of location and scene. Daniel Oulton has designed various projections displaying Chris (Christopher Allen), Lily (Caroline Taol) and Emma (Rachel Mutombo) in various photos that are funny, serious and occasionally embarrassing to the three. When Lily takes a selfie or other photo the result sometimes flashes on a screen up and behind the main playing area. Since she seems to take selfie’s constantly or pictures of other things, one would get dizzy if all Lily’s photos were projected on the screen.

Lily tells us that Chris behaves in one way for his family and Emma (quiet, respectful, thoughtful) and a completely different way for his friends (loud, rambunctious) who he’s trying to impress. Lily and Emma seem to be the same person to whomever they meet.

Chris decides to have a party and invites his friends and Lily of course invites hers. We know what’s coming (that problem of cliché) and surprise, surprise they house is descended upon by more people than were invited. There is irresponsible drinking. Something happens but neither Emma nor Chris can recall what happened because they were so drunk—not unconscious just drunk. How this is revealed and the seriousness of it is one of the themes of the play.

The acting of the three is strong with Caroline Toal as Lily giving a brave, standout performance. I say ‘brave’ because Toal is unafraid to show Lily as loathsome. She is textbook self-absorbed, irresponsible, thoughtless and lacking in any kind of self-control. As Emma, Rachel Mutombo has grace, confidence, perception and a sense of responsibility. While Chris might be well-meaning, Christopher Allen who plays him brings out Chris’ awkwardness, confusion and remorse.

I can appreciate that playwright Christine Quintana makes Chris particularly inarticulate perhaps because he’s shy around Emma etc. But when a character apologizes more than three times, and laments he can’t remember something and seems not to understand the implications of actions, then some ruthless cutting is in order. The play is one hour and fifteen minutes long and it could do with cutting those repetitive, annoying fifteen minutes. Theatre after all is life lived on purpose. The playwright is in control of the situation and while perhaps Quintana thinks the youth of today might be inarticulate, in a play it has to matter and make sense efficiently.

 Comment. There have been other young audience plays that reference the irresponsible use of cell-phone-photos, young people behaving without thought and consequences, apologies without convictions etc. and they generally seem to have more weight than Selfie. I couldn’t help but think that Lily at least is a cliché of a young woman without a shred of responsibility or judgement. She’s one year behind her brother Chris in school. I just wonder how he is so responsible and none of that has rubbed off on her. And any indication that she is thinking of the good of Emma when she tells her to see her doctor, doesn’t ring true.

I love seeing these Young People’s Theatre shows in school audiences because the students are so interesting. As is always the case the teens in this audience are lively, excited and perhaps a bit hard to handle, but they are engaged in the play when it starts, and when there is something of which they don’t approve they shift, whisper heatedly and are ready to voice their opinions. And when they do at the Q and A they are articulate, perceptive and have a moral centre. They are more articulate than Christine Quintana’s characters, I found that interesting too. I wish the play worked better.

Presented by Young People’s Theatre.

Opened: April 26, 2018.

Closes: May 11, 2018.

Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes.

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