by Lynn on February 9, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Created and performed by Haley McGee

Directed by Mitchell Cushman

Mathematics collaborator, Melanie Phillips

Scenic design by Anna Reid

Lighting by Lucy Adams

Sound by Kieran Lucas

Haley McGee takes her audience on a wild, breathless, often poignant and hilarious ride through her various relationships and the stuff she was given along the way she wants to sell. What was it worth? Priceless.

The Story. Haley McGee, theatre artist extraordinaire, had just moved to London, England, had credit card debt and needed to get rid of it. She considered selling herself but was unsure of what to charge and how often etc. She had received stuff from eight former boyfriends and thought a yard sale might help with the debt. Again, how much do you charge for items given to you in a relationship? McGee asked mathematician Melanie Phillips to help. Phillips methodically came up with a formula that was determined by such things as: the market value of the item; how much was invested in the relationship emotionally; who broke up with whom first; was the sex good; were there lots of laughs over the relationship; was there bliss, etc. While Phillips provided the formula, McGee seemed to have suggested a myriad of questions to come up with value.

The Production and comment. The eight items for sale are: a t-shirt, a typewriter, a bike, a mixed tape, a necklace, a backpack, a coffee pot and a vintage, beat-up guitar, which she never learned to play. They are all on display in the performance space. Haley McGee greets us and asks us to wander around the items and then fill in what we think they are worth for sale on a slip of paper and drop the paper in the slot at the back of each item.

When the show starts McGee strips to her undies and socks, perhaps signifying how exposed she is at having to reveal the background of each relationship.  At one point she puts on the t-shirt given to her by a man she truly cared about. McGee writes out bits of the formula on brown paper on a wall the width of the space. Every aspect of each relationship is examined from questions of: was the kissing good, was their laughter, bliss, heart-ache, the prospect of violence, etc. Each answer is then translated into a quantitative part of the formula. Extensive props, graphs, statistics, quotients etc. are used to explain how emotional investment can translate into a tangible number. Envelopes are sent down a line to McGee who reads the contents explaining an aspect of the show. She has charts hauled out from doors leading off stage. A book of stats is pulled down from a rope in the flies, referred to, then snapped back up and out of place. McGee flits from one corner to another revealing many and various props. Initially we don’t know the story of each item. Then we learn their emotional investment. Does that change our ideas of our pricing? Interesting thought.

The energy ramps up and she wraps bubble wrap around her head and body followed by masking tape used to keep it all in place and more and more stuff wrapped, snapped and attached to the stuff already enveloping her. She gets more and more breathless with the quickness of the telling as more and more ideas are thought of for the formula, and it’s all overwhelming  until she says that her director, Mitchell Cushman told her to stop. And I secretly say “bless you, Mitchell.”

The Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale is exhausting for all the right reasons. Aren’t relationships exhausting? The euphoria, the light-headedness, the sleeplessness, lack of appetite, the questions of ‘do you love me?’ or ‘why don’t you love me anymore’, or any number of questions that keep one thinking, worrying, pondering etc. It’s all blissfully exhausting, and Haley McGee puts us right in the middle of it. And in her own inimitable, deeply personal, impish way, McGee makes us see that a numerical value can’t be put on something that came from something so inexplicably emotional. That’s one of the many joys of this show. The biggest joy is seeing Haley McGee again, performing here in such fine form.

Curated and presented by the red light district and in collaboration with Outside the March, and presented in partnership by SummerWorks and the Theatre Centre.

Opened: Feb. 5, 2019.

Closes: Feb. 10, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes, approx.

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1 Jon October 19, 2022 at 10:25 pm

Unique. Engaging. Seductively entertaining. Love and relationships creatively dissected