REVIEW OF 'SORRY I CAN'T COME TO YOUR SHOW BY MANI EUSTIS
Review by Rebeccah Love
Sometimes theatre is most exciting when it doesn’t take place in a theatre. This recent realization by Torontonians has encouraged a rise in site-specific productions, most notably by Outside the March, whose Mr. Marmalade and Vitals both occupy unexpected spaces to lend to their narratives more exciting or tangible dimensions.
Sorry I Can’t Come to Your Show is a three-woman play, written, directed and produced by Ryerson theatre graduate Mani Eustis. The show is intimate and ordinarily would have required use of one of Toronto’s smaller playhouses. (The story would have worked well at the Helen Gardiner or the Factory Theatre). Instead, Eustis chose to set the performance in the kitchen of her apartment, an old barber shop with high ceilings along Christie Street. This choice of space, infinitely more appropriate than any one of Toronto’s overpriced theatres, granted the audience a degree of warmth and vulnerability so fitting with the content of the play.
In the program note from the playwright / director, we learn that Eustis knew she “wanted to write a play in response to all the theatre I saw that made me angry, theatre where in the women were victims dealing with trauma in cliché tropes. I am sick of seeing women raped onstage, beaten onstage, killed onstage...”
In doing so, she delivers a Charlie-Kaufmanesque metatheatrical stream-of conciousness-style absurdist comedy, surrounding the thoughts of a playwright (Marina Gomes), an artist (Marina Moreira) , and a robot (Mallory Palmer). The result is humourous and at times off the wall, but by the end of the show, Eustis pulls the threads together in a conclusive finale that brings closure to her creation.
The play is a little invitation into Eustis’ hypercharged imagination and writing process, one in which vulnerabilities are brought to the forefront. How common it is to feel lost in our work! How jealousies and trends can hinder our ability to create meaningful stories! How the artist may sometimes feel a need to be loved by an audience, by critics, by appreciators!
But the central themes explored in this creation revolve around the experience of a female artist. The frustration with extreme female trauma being central to the female experience onstage is pronounced loud and clear. But even if there is no central trauma, the other problem that arises is that female characters are always living in the shadows of a male character. The omnipresence of Jeremy, although he never makes an appearance onstage, reminds the audience that no matter what our three female characters are doing, Jeremy is always more important, his art more meaningful, his opinions more valid.
The Toronto theatre community could greatly benefit from more theatre artists like Eustis, who has taken big risks, created story within limited circumstances, and generously shared a piece of her inner landscape with such bravery and fun. Looking forward to seeing what comes next for her.