Boca del Lupo
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Boca del Lupo has become one of the darlings of Vancouver’s theatre aficionados. The company’s consistently whimsical, imaginative, original brand of physical theatre has been instrumental—along with The Electric Company, Boca spin-off Theatre Replacement, and Kendra Fanconi’s The Only Animal—in re-shaping our theatrical environment.
Boca shows like The Last Stand and Vasily the Luckless, daringly staged atop the trees of Stanley Park, combine actors and the natural setting in breathtaking ways to transport audiences away from the assumption that theatre is only about people sitting in rooms talking.
Boca’s latest, The Perfectionist, is a miniaturized version of the above. But without the full spectacle of its outdoor venues, this show reveals the limitations of the Boca aesthetic.
Staged as a satellite of the PuSh Festival, The Perfectionist has only two actors, Boca co-founders Sherry J. Yoon and Jay Dodge, accompanied onstage by composer-vibraphonist Joelysa Pankanea and guitar-banjo man Steve Charles. In the cleverest element of Jill A. Samuels’ production the performers interact with animator Jay White’s cartoon forest and city. The animation is projected onto a screen behind which the characters appear as silhouetted shadows.
The story is both simple and dense. A couple’s relationship is in trouble. He’s a perfectionist, manic and somewhat compulsive. He can’t stand dirt, can’t make up his mind what shirt to wear, races off to work chasing an animated bus across the screen. She’s depressive, scatters dirt everywhere, puts on any old shirt, spends all day in bed. That’s the simple part.
The density arises from the impressionistic and sometimes surreal storytelling strategy. The show opens and closes with the characters in silhouette rowing a bed as though it were a boat. Both suffer anxiety and disturbed sleep, leading to dream-like sequences in which the two exchange beds, turn a light on and off, and in a nice climactic moment “fly” over the animated rooftops of the city while hanging upside-down from ropes.
At one point, behind the screen, she washes herself beneath an animated shower while telling a story about her Korean grandmother’s religious obsession with the biblical flood. The image is clever and striking but the story leads nowhere.
Finally, the show seems less than the sum of its parts. Good physical work from the likeable performers, clever imagery and interesting music just don’t add up to a satisfactory whole. I found myself caring little about the relationship, which never seems real. And no individual element of the production is sufficiently spectacular to compensate for the absence of a strong story. At only an hour the whole thing feels inconsequential, more like an extended sketch than a full-scale play.