DEMOCRATS ABROAD by Chris Earle, directed by Shari Hollett (Night Kitchen). At Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). To February 5. $12-$25. See Continuing. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In Democrats Abroad, performer and writer Chris Earle says a lot of things that need to be said about Canada's tenuous position north of Fortress America. But he could - and should - have done more to fully realize his own idea.
The setting is a Toronto filled with fleeing American Democrats whose country has been taken over by an authoritarian government straight out of Crawford, Texas. Earle narrates the solo, multi-character show as Greg, a soft liberal actor who hooks up with Angela, a displaced New York artist/activist.
Those two crazy kids decide to put on a show about the new American experience. But larger events intervene and Angela has to leave before the show goes up. Greg gets into trouble, too, and cracks one of the best lines in the show: "I'd say it was Kafkaesque." (Pregnant pause.) "I've never read Kafka."
The audience was in stitches on opening night, showing how willing we are to go along with Earle, even if it means putting up with some unbearably shopworn Canadian stereotypes, like how we're all law-abiding, polite citizens with nothing better to do than gawk at our more worldy and dramatic neighbours.
Angela is the sexy risk-taker, a ballsy, All-American hero, while Greg is kind of a doofus who couches Canadian nationalism in terms of Tim Hortons, beer and - save for one futile act - passive acceptance. I can't help but see these two characters as expressions of national identity, yet I don't think it works.
Earle and director Shari Hollett are a clever team, and the show is full of quotables, though its political comment is overripe.
Democrats Abroad departs from most Canadian/American discussions because: a) it's set in an antagonistic political milieu that has become more fact than fiction in the past few months, and b) it calls Toronto the bastion of all things Canuck.
There are a lot of things to love about Toronto, but the suggestion that it's somehow more Canadian than Calgary, Vancouver or Halifax is not one of them.
It's a big country. Let's find something new to say about it.