By Sam Mooney
If anyone ever tells you that people don’t choose what shows to see based on reviews tell them about my experience inviting people to see Oh My Irma with me. The first person I invited said that based on a review she had read she didn’t want to see the show. Second person I invited said yes and then on Monday said that she had forgotten that she had a yoga class on Tuesday. Sorry. (Sure, I thought. Yoga. You read the review didn’t you?)
On the other hand Backspace at Theatre Passe Muraille was full on a Tuesday night. Written and performed by Haley McGee, Oh my Irma is a triumph of style over substance (Thanks to George, my play pal for that insight). McGee is a marvellous actor. She’s a good enough writer but I would go see her act before I’d go see something she’s written.
For me there was one huge problem. You know how sometimes you meet someone that you viscerally dislike immediately. Mission Bird, the character in the play, pushed some dislike button for me almost immediately. I really didn’t like the character. Thinking about it afterwards I realized that it was probably because the ‘dialogue’ for the first part of the show – maybe 5 minutes although it felt a lot longer – followed a pattern of “I’m like blah blah” “He’s like blah blah” ‘I’m like blah blah” “He’s like blah blah”… and on and on. I felt as if I was trapped on a bus full of high school girls, praying that my stop was next. I hate it when people say “he’s like…” instead of saying “He said…”. My issue, I know, but we all take our issues with us to the theatre.
On the upside McGee really is a terrific actor. Very physical, very mobile face, and an infectious smile. Parts of the play are very funny, her timing is perfect.
The downside, the material isn’t up to that standard. Mission Bird finds Irma – I’m not giving anything away by saying the Irma is her mother – bleeding and dying at the top of the stairs. Irma is wearing a blood covered tuxedo shirt with a business card in the pocket. Mission Bird sets off to find out the connection between P.P. – the owner of the shirt – and Irma.
The plot is predictable, I had figured out the big revelation in the first 10 minutes. The most interesting part of the story was the explanation of Mission Bird’s costume – big glasses with taped frames, a wig that looks as if it’s been cut with a lawnmower, and a blood-stained shirt.
The final scene is horrific and unnecessary. I’ve struggled with whether or not to describe the scene and decided that it’s enough to warn you that if you have a beloved pet, or have ever had a beloved pet, or considered the possibly of a beloved pet, this is a scene that will truly offend you. and a scene that adds nothing at all to plot advancement. We’d already figured out that Mission Bird is a seriously disturbed character. George and I were both horrified and felt that it was completely gratuitous. That’s my due diligence.
– Oh My Irma is playing until January 29th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backstage ( 16 Ryerson Avenue – Queen and Bathurst).
– Performances last for 65 minutes and are at 7.30 pm with Saturday matinees at 2 pm
– Tickets are $25.00,$30.00 and PWYC for the Saturday matinee and are available by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at the office, or online.