THE ECO SHOW (Necessary Angel). To June 1. 416-?975-?8555. See Continuing, in listings. Rating: NNN
The Eco Show tries to reinvent our theatrical experience, drawing parallels between the delicate balance in a family and that between humankind and our planet. The impressive production about the complexities of dealing with a sick planet is thoughtful and visually inventive but ultimately hard to relate to.
Inside the family home, a wheelchair-?bound writer (Richard Clarkin) has been instructing his family about the outside world’s impending tragedies. His partner, Gwen (Fiona Highet), feels ignored, his children Fifi (Jenny Young) and Joe (Joe Cobden) sometimes follow and sometimes defy his warnings; meanwhile, he ignores his ill father (Geza Kovacs), who’s lying offstage.
In Julie Fox’s striking, forced-?perspective box set, lit by Andrea Lundy and to Richard Feren’s haunting soundscape, writer/director Daniel Brooks offers episodes from the ecosystem of this family’s life. He cleverly brings in the outside world through Ben Chaisson’s videos – memories of a pleasant earlier life, ghostly figures and idyllic cloudscapes – to punctuate the tension within the family, whose happier moments usually come when father’s not around.
The cast is uniformly fine, notably Highet’s angry, tightly wound Gwen, Cobden’s slack-?shouldered, loping teen who argues with and avoids his father whenever possible and Young’s precocious nine-?year-?old with ignored artistic talents. The latter two create a wonderfully complex relationship – a believable, battling love – between the sibs.
But Clarkin’s pessimistic, condescending central figure, who philosophizes but doesn’t act, remains inscrutable; the problem’s in the writing, not the performance. Brooks’s point might be that the father’s emotions are locked up, but it’s hard for us to connect with or feel very much for him, even in a nuanced epilogue that laces a positive family experience with potential tragedy.