• Joe Szekeres

Review: 'The Caffeine Rabbit Hole' by John Bandler

A rather quirky and odd story of experiencing human emotions and feelings for the first time. But stay with it.

By Joe Szekeres, Chief Toronto Critic/Columnist for OnStage Blog

Truth be told, I had to examine John Bandler’s ‘The Caffeine Rabbit Hole’ at least three times. It’s quirky, it’s odd, and it’s rather strange at times to hear about the emotional effects of coffee and the reasons why people will gather in such places to drink the beverage. The first time I watched the production simply reminded me of a cross between the 1978 film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, and odd characters we might find in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ story.

I didn’t get it the first time.

But I persevered and watched it again.

And you know what?

I found Caffeine’s writing rather clever in its satire of a real-life social commentary on possible human extinction with credit to John Bandler’s subtle direction, to the solid actor performances, to the haunting musical piano underscoring by Emily Wood, and to Jeremy Major’s extremely sound video editing skills as Technical Consultant.

From the press release: “The Caffeine Rabbit Hole” finds extra-terrestrials Dara and Lenik trying to figure out whether coffee shops provide a clue to the extinction of humans. Their emotional rollercoaster is beautifully interpreted by Steph Christiaens (Dara), Jaclyn Scobie (Lenik), and Emily Wood (Composer). Ms. Christiaens wears a summer looking white coat with a string of white pearls around her neck, a bright floral blouse underneath, and, at one point, she pulls her leg up and I saw orange pants. Ms. Scobie wears dark coloured professional business attire. Both actors are perfectly coiffed and made up with fitting hairstyles.

Not a great deal of action takes place so it’s up to the actors to keep the story moving.

Under Mr. Bandler’s careful direction, both Ms. Christiaens and Ms. Scobie kept the plot moving along at a trim pace in telling the story. They never take their extra-terrestrial characters over the top to an outrageously laughable heightened extreme. Additionally, Emily Wood's musical piano composition underscoring effectively softened the reality that Dara and Lenik are extraterrestrials, and made those moments where both experience human emotions very tender. All of this piqued my curiosity as I wanted to see how the story progressed and concluded.

What I found interesting instead about the piece are the emotions conveyed through the ladies’ eyes (or lack thereof as you’ll see at one point from Lenik who appears to be in control over Dara). I’ve heard it said the eyes are the windows to the soul, and both Christiaens and Scobie soundly reveal this in their performances in naturally acquiring and experiencing human emotions of such things as confusion embarrassment, courage, anger and frustration.

Thankfully, these ladies never resort merely to ‘face acting’ but are keenly listening to each other and believably respond to what the other says.

Photo courtesy of John Bandler

Running time: approximately 19 minutes.

Production runs July 15-25 at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. To purchase tickets and for online information about other productions, please visit

The Caffeine Rabbit Role by John Bandler

Producer and Director: John Bandler

Co-Producer: Beth Bandler

Assistant to the Director: Megan Vierhout

Music: Emily Wood

Editor and Technical Consultant: Jeremy Major

Coffee Shop Logo Design and Promo Image Design and Processing: Rachelle Ho, John Bandler

Performers: Steph Christiaens and Jaclyn Scobie

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