>>> Review: Crawlspace


CRAWLSPACE written and performed by Karen Hines (Videofag, 187 Augusta). Runs to September 27. $15-$30. crawlspaceplay.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Be careful what you wish for. Back in the mid-00s, writer/director/actor Karen Hines decided to buy a condo alternative, a tiny, lemon-yellow 400-square foot house in Toronto. The word lemon should have been a clue.

Soon after moving in, Hines discovered the narrow carriage house was really a glorified shed, and it had major problems, including an add-on closet that encroached on a neighbours property line and an impossible-to-get-to crawl space that hid something from a horror film.

Meanwhile, she was trying to keep making a living as a writer and performer during the U.S. writers strike and SARS crisis. As the construction bills mounted and her slick but shady realtor avoided her calls, she began maxing out her credit cards, sinking into depression and having to borrow from her lawyer brother, the responsible sibling.

Hines presents her Kafkaesque tale in a controlled fashion that contrasts with the chaos of the situation. In the narrow performing space at Videofag, lined with chic wallpaper and furnished with tasteful objects (Patrick Lavender is the set and lighting designer), Hines plays the host, a stylish and successful figure who delivers her lines in a sweet but knowing fashion, whether shes sending up Pottery Barn accessories or explaining the concept of artists math.

An assistant (a suitably eager and faux friendly Georgina Beaty) offers up gourmet treats and mini-martinis, all the while reminding us were in a showroom presumably there to be sold.

Hiness clever script, alternately savagely funny and disturbing (many among the 15 audience members groaned at details), is full of facts the author keeps amending, underlining the bait-and-switch nature of the real estate swindle.

Hines has trouble ending the piece, which slips into a psychedelic groove for some reason. And while the inti-mate space suits the work, the performer has enough energy and the storys universal enough to play a bigger space.

Perhaps she can upgrade?



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