by Lynn on October 14, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Cliff Cardinal: Photo: Michael Cooper

Live and in person at the Deanne Taylor Theatre, 10 Busy St., Toronto, Ont. A VideoCabaret Production in Association with Crow’s Theatre. Plays until Nov. 12, 2023.

Written and performed by Cliff Cardinal

Directed by Karin Randoja

Set and props by JB Nelles

Costume by Sage Paul

Lighting by Raha Javanfar

Sound by Alex Williams

Original music by The Rob Clutton Trio featuring Karen Ng and Nick Fraser.

Original music by End.

In his newest one person play, Cliff Cardial, actor, playwright, observer of humanity, has created a solo show about a man who feels he is cursed. He (we learn his name only at the end), lists the people he has loved, beginning when he was a young kid in school, who have then met a terrible fate. The fates vary in seriousness depending on how old our Narrator is: young people tend to exaggerate the awfulness of a situation because they don’t have much in the way of life’s experiences with which to compare the terrible fates.

The itemization of horrible accidents and death keeps mounting as our Narrator gets older. Because he feels this curse is his fault, he decides to stop loving and hate everybody and therefore prevent a terrible fate to befall anyone else. His life is full of people and incidents and quirkiness. Affection happens. Terrible fates pile up. One person suggests she can lift the curse but that is not attended to immediately. There is more ruminating on the world, discoursing, philosophizing, bristling observations.

JB Nelles has created an intriguing set with props. There is a backdrop that is an abstract painting. In front are three different chairs over which is a different sign: Love-Cursed-Fate. Under LOVE is a hard backed chair, under CURSED is a comfortable chair like you would find in an airplane, and under FATE is a ‘basket’ chair that looks comfortable but not as comfortable as the “CURSED” chair. There is a slab behind each chair with a symbolic painting for each. For example, “CURSED” has a sword stuck in a red structure that could be a heart.

Sage Paul has designed a stylish but rumpled suit in purple with a purple shirt for our Narrator. Raha Javanfar has created an evocative lighting design that draws us into the stories and Alex Williams’ sound adds texture and atmosphere.

Cliff Cardinal has created an engaging Narrator. His manner is contained, thoughtful, gracious, gentle, and occasionally lively. He varies his position either sitting in one of the chairs, standing and talking, taking of and putting on his jacket, for variation. He listens intently and interacts with his audience, aware of any reaction and reacting to that reaction. Karin Randoja, the gifted director of the piece, has meticulously directed (Everyone I Love Has) A Terrible Fate (Befall Them) with nuance and detail. Cardinal has crafted a script that is poetic, lyrical in his observations, full of esoteric musings, references to the Northern White Rhinoceros which might be extinct and symbolic references.

Cardinal’s story is dense with characters, incidents and ideas—occasionally it’s difficult keeping up with who is whom. It’s perhaps a trap to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the story. When he rounds back to one of the characters, one has to recall what that person’s story was. I think the story is a stretch at 80 minutes. A tightening and shortening of the very detailed story is in order—Cardinal stumbled a few times on the opening remembering the dense dialogue.

While the premise is interesting—to hate everybody in order to save them from a terrible fate—the beauty of  (Everyone I Love Has) A Terrible Fate (Befall Them) is that the Narrator contradicts himself by always looking for that which he is missing—LOVE. He is constantly searching for it. The search in itself is hopeful.

A VideoCabaret Production in Association with Crow’s Theatre presents:

Plays until Nov. 12, 2023.

Running time: 80 minutes (no intermission)

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.