Show and Tell Alexander Bell (Ars Mechanica) 2013 SummerWorks Review


Show and Tell Alexander Bell (at the Lower Ossington Theatre) is a theatrical joyride, and the perfect antidote to some of the heavier shows this SummerWorks.

It’s rare to see something this eager, thoughtful and playful on a stage. I cannot overstate how much this show pushed my pleasure buttons from beginning to end.

And I cannot overstate how much you should see it.

Alexander Bell uses the titular character as a jumping-off point. Bell’s wife and mother were both deaf: this man who enabled the world to speak to one another could never speak to those he held dearest. Ars Mechanica takes this premise and runs with it: could Bell have anticipated how his invention would change the world? What implications does this connectedness have for the rest of us? And what if–just if–it was Bell’s inability to communicate that drove him to bring the rest of us closer?

Alexander Bell (Vojin Vasovic) and a female character representing both wife and mother (Natalie Mathieson) dance, move, sway and act through these possibilities in a series of beautifully-staged vignettes. A third character–Mary Moore, a spunky old-school telephone operator (Sasha Kovacs)–guides the audience through this murky world, and eventually becomes sucked in, then consumed by it, discarded like the technology she represents.

If my description makes the show sound awfully thinkty-think, good: this is a very thoughtful show. But more importantly, it’s a beautiful one. The company have laced this 75-minute-long performance not only with impressive movement, but with a gorgeous soundscape (designed by Vladimir Kerkez), with impressive animations (by Vasovic, who also directs), and with the audience ourselves.

When I call this show “playful”, I mean it literally: nothing would please this cast more than for you to get involved. Send text messages to the narrator. Pick sides in disputes. Follow instructions–or defy them. And the liveliness this induces from the audience–gasps, shrieks, and one or two outright screams (“OH GOD, DID YOU SEE THAT? DID YOU?! AHMAHGAHHHD!”)–may be the best part of the show.

A remarkable piece of theatre, and—best of all–a short one. (“How can that show be over? There’s no way that was 75 minutes. Oh. Oh, wow, it was…”) Even if the content goes right over your head–and I’ll admit that, on occasion, I was lost myself–this piece is so beautiful, so charming, so eager to please an audience that you won’t regret seeing it.

And you should see it.

My advice: bring a date. This is the kind of show you’ll want to talk about over dinner.


  • Show and Tell Alexander Bell plays at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave., upstairs) through Sunday, August 18th.
  • All tickets $15. Money-saving passes are available. For more information, and to order online, see the festival website.
  • Remaining performances: Thursday August 15, 12:00 pm; Friday August 16, 5:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 2:30 pm; Sunday August 18, 12:00 pm.
  • Be advised that this show involves heavy use of a fog machine. Anyone with allergies or respiratory issues should discuss the situation with the Festival before purchasing a ticket.

Poster designed by Nikola Stepkovic.