Safe and Sorry by Lester Trips (Theatre) is playing at the 2019 SummerWorks Festival. It’s a surreal descent into the dark, nebulous online communities surrounding pickup artistry, and manages moments of frightening hilarity and quiet reflection.
The show tells the story of Keith Much, a charismatic dating coach who teaches pick-up seminars for men seeking women. Keith espouses a reasonable approach to dating: he encourages his students to approach women in public spaces where they’ll feel safe, to be conscious of body language, to actively listen, and to seek consent without shame.
Keith earnestly shares his approach with those who come to him for guidance. All is well, until he begins to read comments about his seminars online. In the comment section, Keith discovers deeply muddied waters: a cesspool of vitriol and misogyny from incels and red-pillers, members of online subcultures that harbour rage and resentment against women.
There’s a lot to unpack in this show. Keith Much, played expertly by co-creator Lauren Gillis, tries but fails to reason with men who have submerged themselves in these subcultures. I was struck by how the deeper he forayed into their comments, the more he began to unravel. It was chilling and haunting and gave me pause after the show.
Alaine Hutton shape-shifts throughout the show, playing all the men Keith encounters: those who come to his seminars, and those from the comment section. Her performances are powerful for what they expose: such distorted views that typically fester unseen, in dark spaces online.
This show felt like watching a horror film (and also: there is a horror film that plays periodically in the background). It rises steadily in intensity like a scream, and ends on a haunting note. It deals with uncomfortable and disturbing points of view, and makes an attempt to reckon with them.
Safe and Sorry is playing as part of SummerWorks Lab programming, which means that it’s still under development. In its current form, it offers a chilling examination of these particular subcultures, and one man’s attempt to bring these shadow monsters into the light. It will be interesting to see where this show ends up.
This review is a snapshot of the first performance of a work-in-progress. The production is one of several pieces at the festival presented as part of the SummerWorks Lab programming introduced in 2018. The participants in SW Lab are still in the development process and will continue to evolve throughout the festival.
Safe and Sorry is playing at the Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre (1115 Queen Street West).
- Friday August 9th 9:45pm – 10:45pm
- Tuesday August 13th 7:45pm – 8:45pm
- Friday August 16th 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Warning: Nudity, discussions of sexual assault, coarse language, loud noises and fog/haze
Information on Tickets and Passes:
SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.
Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.
Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.
Photo by Peter Demas