For me, seeing Circle Jerk (produced in glorious collaboration by Soup Can Theatre, safeword, and Aim for the Tangent Theatre) was like having the most incredible tantric sex of my life. It titillated, excited, and stimulated me and then left me completely satisfied, satiated, gratified, and full. In the space of two and a half hours, the four one act plays that make up Circle Jerk prove the utter brilliance and supreme skill of the teams that created them.
The show begins with Dust Peddling: Part Two, written and starred in by Scott Dermody. Admittedly, I think it is the weakest offering of the four, but it sets the tone perfectly for the night. As a scholar of sex and poetry, watching two beautiful people recite Ginsberg and Keats while writhing around in their underwear and pontificating on the abstract, non-corporeal corporeality of the orgasm was a wet dream.
The play brings the audience into the high poetic world of the mundane and the intimate through its frank sexuality and casual, performative, ritual approach to the material. Although it sometimes runs the risk of rehashing some of the generic stereotypes of experimental theatre, it gives us glimpses into the brilliance that is to come and earns its independent merit through that.
Sex and This, written by Wesley J. Colford and performed brilliantly by Tiffany Deobald and Carys Lewis follows Dust Peddling: Part Two. Although the play is written around a tragedy, it is a scathingly accurate, laugh-out-loud hilarious parody of party culture in the vein of Girls.
Deobald is pitch perfect as a party girl from the moment she appears on stage in her costume that prompts the question, “What is Bulgarian for slut?” I’ve got to give props to the costume designer that created her Soviet-stereotype-meets-raver-girl costume because it is one of the two biggest stars of the night for me.
Both Deobald and Lewis deliver Colford’s dialogue so naturally that it seems almost improvisational, but it never feels mundane or banal. The same can be said about the use of technology in the play. I’ve never seen a representation of characters using text messages and Facebook performed as convincingly and naturally as the one in this play.
Combined, these two aspects make Sex and This a fascinating, compelling look at how the youth of today might deal with the grief and existential terror that stem from a first experience with death.
As much as I loved the other plays in Circle Jerk, the next play, Maypole Rose, was my absolute favourite of the night. I think that I sat beside the show’s writer/director Brandon Crone tonight and I have to tell him that his anxious nervousness about how his play might be received was all for nothing. It was (and is) nothing short of spectacular.
The play covers one night and the following morning between a gay married couple played by Alexander Plouffe and G. Kyle Shields. The plot of the play is fairly simple: Plouffe’s character, a business man, just wants to get high and fuck his husband, Shield’s character. The erotic politics of this play are gripping and, quite frankly, really hot. From Plouffe’s character’s dirty talk, to his seduction of Shields’ character, to the inevitable sex scene I have never seen anything that is simultaneously so convincingly mundane and so palpably sexually charged.
The execution of the simulated sex in the sex scene (the particulars of which I won’t spoil for those of you lucky enough to see it) has set an unreasonably high bar for any simulated sex scene I have seen and will ever see again. It is so hilarious, hot, and unbelievably perfect that I don’t even think I would be as impressed if the actors had actually had sex on stage. Undoubtedly, this scene is the highlight of the night for me and it alone is worth 10 times the price of admission.
Finally, Circle Jerk ends with The Session, written and directed by Justin Haigh. The brilliance of this play lies in the tight plotting and slow revelation of the workings of the mind of a nuclear safety expert (played by Allan Michael Brunet) through a therapy session with his newly assigned workplace therapist (played by Matt Pilipiak).
As the gay ex-Mormon workplace therapist, Pilipiak might as well have been torn straight off of the Book of Mormon stage at the Princess of Wales. His mannerisms and affectations would be perfect for Elder McKinley (who has to crush his gay feelings in the show-stopping “Turn It Off” in Mormon) and he brings that sort of likability and hilarity to the role. This is much needed opposite Brunet’s brooding, menacing performance as the charismatic and charming (although sociopathic) nuclear safety expert. For his part, Haigh builds excellent suspense and tension into the last play in the show, which pays off in The Session’s shocking ending.
On top of these four excellent plays, Circle Jerk is also made up of four phenomenal instrumental pieces that precede each of the plays. For me, the standouts are Subtlety is Not Your Specialty composed by Marla Kishimoto, which features a goofy clarinet line that sets the comedic tone for the night and I Think It’s Time We Talked About Your Filthy Rituals composed by Peter Cavell, which is a hauntingly brilliant atonal, avant-garde piece that sets the depraved sexual tone for the beginning of the second act.
If you buy your tickets to Circle Jerk, you will be getting four seriously amazing shows for the price of one. In my opinion, you’d be an idiot not to go. I was blown away completely by each of the four plays and would happily pay to see any of them again individually. Do yourself a favour and catch this show while you can.
Circle Jerk is now playing at the lemonTree Studio (196 Spadina Ave.) until November 23. Tickets are $24 for general admission and $18 for students, seniors, and arts workers and can be purchased online at http://soupcantheatre.com/shows/circle-jerk/tickets/.