SLAVES OF STARBUCKS written and performed by Peter Aterman, directed by Christopher Caines. George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire). Runs to April 15, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15-$20, Sunday pwyc. Rating: NN
call it the fringe curse. peter
Aterman's Slaves Of Starbucks seemed more intriguing at the summer theatre fest than it does in its expanded remount.
A series of vignettes satirizing greed, gluttony and violence in the late 20th century, the show has a pretentious, quasi-profound whiff about it now, with several sections screaming out for excision.
Dressed up like a businessman, the dour-looking Aterman takes on 17 characters, ranging from a professor explaining the Nazi connotations of Archie comics to a shopping-mall clerk who gets castrated in the Eaton's Centre. Some sketches, like these two, are full of fine writing, with absurdist and darkly funny undertones.
Satire's a strange beast, and when it works it's unlike anything else. A vignette about a Wall Street broker who employs a human-sacrificing Aztec priest hits the mark, as does a new piece about Americans who sell their internal organs so they can eat more.
Others, though, fall short or overstay their welcome. A piece about CIA procedures drones on forever and fails to relate to any of Aterman's themes. Elsewhere, Aterman's connections between capitalism, celebrity and fascism -- Celine Dion, for instance, is seen reading Mein Kampf -- seem puerile at best, offensive at worst.
It's also not clear where Aterman stands on any of these issues politically. He begins and ends the show with a drugged-out airline pilot recalling the 1960s and telling us to give up our middle-class values. It's a neat structuring device, with the pilot standing in for the author, or even a higher deity.
But does Aterman believe him? And if society makes him want to "throw up," as he so charmingly puts it, what's the alternative?