Marine Life (Theatre Crisis) 2012 SummerWorks Review

Marine Life, a smart tragicomic psychodrama staged by Theatre Crisis for SummerWorks, bills itself as an “intimate fish-tale of apocalyptic proportions,” and that’s pretty accurate. Let’s break this down.

Intimacy: Environmental activist Sylvia finds herself in an awkward triangle of affections with her new love-interest-slash-defense-attorney, Rupert, and possessive, suicidal brother, John (he prefers Juan).

Fish-tale: Things get complicated. Sylvia, a standard-issue millennial complete with an opinion on everything and an encyclopedic knowledge of marine animals, begins to grate at the men in her life. Worse, certain inadequacies and a loathing of plastic combine to threaten a blossoming romance with Rupert. John/Juan, meanwhile, flops between bouts of melancholy and mariachi.

Apocalypse: Set against a threat of flood – the vengeance of a wrathful god, perhaps – the increasingly selfish motives of each character begin to parallel humankind’s domineering relationship with the environment.

Results: A mixed bag, almost all of it good. Tension between the tragic and the humourous seems to be a running theme at SummerWorks this year, and few plays walk this tightrope quite like Marine Life.

The play takes on the ramifications our often selfish acts have on the wider world and society. Do human beings have the right to exploit the environment for one-sided gains, the play seems to ask, and if so, does that right extend into the relationships we have with each other? The script, performances, and even staging seemed designed to force you to think differently.

But Marine Life is able to lampoon its own elaborate ideals, and offers up some inventive comic relief, with each actor subverting their characters’ flaws to hilarious effect. Sylvia is admirable but duly irritating; John embraces an alternate identity with considerable flair; and Rupert shines with the polished, toothy sheen of a Bay Street lawyer.

If you don’t mind being forced to think about the tough choices that lie ahead for human beings, both individually and as a species, Marine Life belongs on your “must-see” list.

  • Marine Life plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue, near Queen and Bathurst)
  • Show times: Fri. August 10, 8:00 PM, Sat. August 11, 10:30 PM, Tues. August 14, 5:30 PM, Thurs. August 16, 8:00 PM, Sat. August 18, 10:30 PM, Sun. August 19, 5:30 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows