Review: then, then (The Messy Kween Collective)

then-thenThe Messy Kween Collective presents Kyle Capstick’s play then, then in Toronto

In the words of my guest, “The author did not write a play so much as he did a lullaby.” Those are some fitting words for The Messy Kween Collective’s production of then, then by Kyle Capstick at the Majlis Art Garden.

Capstick admits to not “obey the rules of good playwriting”, and unfortunately, I would have to agree with him there. What Capstick writes is poetry and he writes it well. The imagery he manages to luxuriously unravel is clearly the workings of a talented writer. The problem is, it doesn’t work for me in theatrical form. If I was told I was coming to watch some creatively staged poetry, I might have felt less hostile toward the production.

What didn’t work for me most of all was the overly stylized way the actors were speaking, partly due to the text. When every word comes out as precious, like a newly minted jewel, it’s easy to get lost in the cadence and pay less attention to what is being said. I just wish as a whole, the dialogue was spoken in a more pedestrian manner, leaving the weightiness for key dramatic moments.

Speaking of which, this play did not lack in attempts at drama. I didn’t find myself feeling along with the actors. In moments where I should have been caught up in emotion, I instead felt like an observer. I never really felt connected to anything that was happening on stage. The things I took most pleasure in were the space itself, a beautifully tented outdoor venue, and the clever staging by director Evan Harkai.

This is a play about a group of actors staging a play amidst the ominous sounds of war planes which are a constant reminder of the times. I believe the intent was to create an uneasiness and a current of underlying fear. I did pick up on that because those moments were made a bit too obvious by the actors stopping dead in their tracks everytime a plane flew overhead.

The inner workings of each of the actors was often brought out by one of the other actors asking a series of questions; almost like a therapist/patient relationship. This device is partially what made me feel like the play lacked flow. The text was staccato and was missing some stitching to connect the story as a whole.

Perhaps it would have helped for the lines to be picked up quicker. I felt like this show should have been half an hour shorter than it was. I started to get fidgety and knew I had reached my attention span threshold. It might have helped to have more honest moments of levity to counterbalance the dramatic moments which sometimes read as melodrama.

Plays like this, that constantly teeter on taking us down winding poetic paths, are admittedly not my cup of tea. I always feel like I have to work too hard to string together the storyline amidst a blur of word play. Even though through action, I can assume what is happening, I don’t like leaving feeling like I didn’t get it. Some people like the  challenge, but I’m not one of them.

If you are a lover of poetry, this play has it aplenty. It is a very beautiful piece misplaced into a play format. Maybe with some reworking it could sit better on the palate, but I’m not sure it currently lives in it’s rightful skin.


  • then, then runs from September 17th-27th, 2015 at Majlis Art Garden (163 Walnut Ave.)
  • All shows start at 8PM September 17th-20th and September 23rd-27th.
  • General Admission tickets are $20 with $15 Arts Workers and Student tickets. Advance tickets can be purchased online.
  • Please note: there is not latecomer seating
  • The space is semi-outdoors so dress accordingly

Photo of (L-R) Jonathan Walls and Nicholas Surges by Jonathan Harvey