COMMENTARY: 'THE HUNS' by Michael Ross Albert
Big Theatre 4 (For) Small Spaces, Summer 2020 Production
Theatre on the Ridge
Performers: Reid Martin, Breanne Tice, Michael Williamson
Director: Carey Nicholson
Commentary by Joe Szekeres, On Stage Blog Toronto correspondent
To close out its “Big Theatre 4 (FOR) Small Spaces” theme this summer, Theatre on the Ridge selected Michael Ross Albert’s ‘The Huns’ which, according to Artistic Director Carey Nicholson, had its premiere in 2018 at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
This opening night reading/presentation of Michael Ross Albert’s highly engaging one act play of the intricacies of the corporate world connected me immediately to the plot’s action. The audience finds itself amid a presentation about to take place on account of a security fault and risk that had occurred the night before. I don’t want to spoil what went wrong as that’s all part of this fast paced, hard telling story of the hard knocks within a giant tech corporation.
For a presentation that was staged simply as a reading, the Summer 2020 company members kept me glued right to the end as I was on every single word and didn’t want to miss anything. There’s Iris (Breanne Tice) who is in charge of this presentation and who has spent some time on her power point presentation that she is about to share with her two colleagues present plus an identical virtual presentation with other company members all over the continent. We’re also introduced to Shelley (Reid Martin) who’s only on contract with the firm. It appears that Shelley’s temporary contracted is near its completion but unfolding events during this presentation may slightly change the course of events for her. And then there’s Pete (Michael Williamson) who does not want to be at this presentation. Pete is dressed rather casually for the office, shorts and short sleeved shirt with sneakers as he has to catch a plane with his buddies for a big bachelor party weekend before his wedding the following week.
I really hope Theatre on the Ridge decides to stage ‘The Huns’ fully sometime in a future season. It is a wonderfully crafted script of power struggles between three very interesting characters who appear sometimes on the edge of collapse for sometimes very funny reasons and for many poignant and gut-wrenching moments. Ms. Martin, Ms. Tice and Mr. Williamson’s naturalistic reading kept the story’s pace clicking along without appearing rushed.
One of the key elements which made this script fly right off the page is the pacing and timing of sound effects, sound cues and their operation at a very quick pace. Acknowledgement to Sabrina Pye, Michael Serres and Lyle Corrigan for their dedicated efforts to find and record the various voices and noises needed.
There are so many good moments in this production that I don’t want to spoil for audiences. When I was teaching full time, I sometimes recall the very long staff meetings the faculty had after some trying days within education. Having to sit through an hour-hour and a half meeting when you’re exhausted did put some of my colleagues over the edge. This is captured quite effectively under Carey Nicholson’s direction.
Add the fact that the technical equipment needed for Iris’s presentation was not working properly and she had to call someone from IT to ensure everything would work. The comical aftermath ensuring Iris on the phone with a nit-picking Pete who just wants to get on that damn plane combined with Shelley trying to ensure a calm approach was great fun to watch.
Pete utters a line that I wrote down immediately: “Is anybody normal anymore?” For me, this epitomized exactly what this sometimes frenetic paced, at time cutthroat corporate world has created of we humans. Do these big, high tech companies really care about their employees? When the truth finally comes out about one of the characters, there was a hushed silence in the audience around me that emphasizes even more the lack of human compassion and empathy sorely missing from these companies.
Get to see this staged reading. Performances continue August 13 and 14 at 7 pm at the Scugog Arts Space, 175B Queen Street, Port Perry. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased only online at www.theatreontheridge.ca