Sunday, October 27, 2013
Pontypool at the Stardust Theater.
Pontypool Changes Everything
At least that’s the title of the original book upon which the stage play is based. And the stage play is based upon the movie, and a radio drama has also been released, and so on so forth and again. It’s quickly becoming one of the most oft adapted fictions of the modern era, and that’s pretty impressive to be honest. I’m a big fan of low budget minimalist pictures, so this one had been on my radar from shortly before it’s official release on film. It’s an interesting little story, with a bizarre premise, and a minimalist approach to the zombie apocalypse reminiscent of the original zombie film; Night of the Living Dead. Instead of a lone farm house and a group of survivors, we’re trapped in a radio station with minimal staff that includes an aging former shock jock, his producer, and the lone radio technician. And when the poop hits the fan, we’re not left with a traditional horde of flesh eating zombies either- they’re infected people (conversationalists) driven to blood-thirsty acts through the usage of “language”… yes, you read that right. Language is the means through which the virus is spread.
Now, first off: if you think the premise is too bizarre, then let me put you on pause. Language IS an infection- it’s not just a means of communication, it’s not just a series of sounds that come out of the human mouth. It’s an understanding, a way of defining our world, and a means through which people can convey thoughts, emotions, logic, and understanding. The words I’m writing this very moment are having an effect on my own mind, echoing my thoughts as I think them but also reflecting them back to myself to check for comprehension and understanding. It may seem like a lot of “blah blah” to you, but the truth is that if you are reading my thoughts you are also being infected by them and by the verbiage and translation within your own minds. And my words are also being infected by your own understanding of them. The story regarding the “Tower of Babel” is very much a reflection of this same idea. For a slightly goofier yet probably far easier to understand translation of what this infection might be like, you could listen to the song “Bulbous Bouffant” which is just a series of words that the singers find impressive, amusing, and fascinating. There is no true meaning to the words being shouted out through the song, the meaning is totally lost, but the song is highly entertaining nonetheless.
Enough ranting on the whole idea behind hte show...
The set is amazing! Right off the bat, you immediately feel like you are occupying the very real fourth wall of this small radio station in the rural hinterlands of Canada. The community bulletin board in the lobby offers a number of hints to the characters involved and they are very real within the confines of the set. This is their world. And the cast never lets you forget it once they hit the stage.
Grant Mazzy takes to the microphone with an opening monologue regarding the story of a local missing cat. And there are interesting coincidences regarding a series of words, jumbled together, connected, a strong foreshadowing of what's to come but more importantly a peek into our protagonist. Patrick Golden puts another notch into his acting credits with a strong, often amusing, and very charismatic performance. He captures the "outlaw" shock jock personality of our lead and pushes him into small communty that seems to box him in from all sides.
Opposite Golden is Beverly Van Pelt as the station manager, Sidney Briar. She's the anchor to Mazzy's desire to shake up his audience. She knows the town and the people. The tension between her and Mazzy carries much of the drama, the events transforming them both, and Van Pelt captures the heart of the show in her performance. There's one moment where my heart literally ached for her character; a sobering phone call that reminds the audience of the world beyond our fourth wall and that these events will ripple far beyond our brief moments in ths small town radio station.
And then there's Laurel-Anne, a resourceful technician recently returned from a military tour in Afghanistan. She's amused with Mazzy's on-air hijinks and has a close working relationship with Briar. She often seems caught between the two, and Molly Lindquists' performance is endearingly playful as she chuckles through the banter of her boss and the talented man behind the microphone.
The trio are joined by traffic reporter Ken Loney (Jesse Juarez) through phone call updates and then by Doctor Mendez in person, his arrival coming on the heels of the event that spirals out of control. Other calls flow into the station, various reported incidents, and then there's Mazzy's own personal run in with a strange woman on his way to work.
Highly recommended show for the Halloween season and a terrific exploration on the effects of language in our society. 5 out of 5.