by James Long
Rumble Productions’ The Young & The Restless
showcases Theatre Replacement
Performance Works, Granville Island
At its best, James Long’s Broiler looks and sounds
like a cross between a Daniel MacIvor solo show and Whatever
Happened to Baby Jane?
Like MacIvor, Long speaks directly to the audience, his
casual narrative masking the desperate story underneath that
comes leaking out in manic fits and psychotic starts. Like
MacIvor and Marie Brassard, whose solo outings this also
resembles (she visits the Cultch with her latest next month),
he relies heavily on amplified, distorted sound and lighting
effects. In one of the strongest elements of Broiler, Long
assumes the role of a semi-catatonic mother, locked in her
chair for years as a result of the mysterious, violent death
of her young daughter.
Yet for all that, plus Long’s actorly charm and the
slimy fascination of a raw chicken that serves as his onstage
partner, Broiler never really cooks.
Long welcomes the theatre audience to his apartment for
a kind of housewarming. He explains that he’s returned
to this place after four years on the other side of the country.
He’s going to prepare a meal for us, cook a chicken,
and we watch him make the stuffing as he chats in that format
familiar from popular TV cooking shows. His narrative is
broken up by a voiceover describing strategies for running
successful social functions, which Long accompanies with
a host-at-the-party mime routine. All this is light, silly,
and apropos of very little.
But what becomes clear in the spaces between, as Long throws
back gin after gin, is that something is terribly amiss.
Every so often he’ll shift into a scary voice for a
couple of seconds, or sound will distort, or he’ll
convulse when approaching a patch of carpet. And his pawing
of the headless chicken starts to look increasingly symbolic--and
creepy. What’s the real story?
It has something to do with the death of that little girl
in this very room, and her grieving mother who sits upstairs.
Was it suicide or murder? And what was our boy’s role
in it all?
Long remains a better actor than writer. He has a loopy,
relaxed quality that can shift quickly into psycho mode.
He also moves well: his manic dance with the chicken is a
highlight. But his performance lacks the physical rigour
and precision that marks MacIvor and Brassard’s work.
And the acting reflects the slackness in the script, for
which director Craig Hall must also take some blame. Too
much time is spent in empty chatter and a juvenile guessing
game in the dark. At only 75 minutes, the show still seems
Noah Drew provides imaginative sound and excellent musical
choices, and Itai Erdal’s lighting sharply defines
the space and mood. But in the end, like Long’s last
show, The Empty Orchestra, this feels more like an exercise--an
appetizer--than the real meal deal.