Review: You Are Not Dead – A Guide to Modern Living – clever writing suffers from being a little one-note

There is no question that writer Meg Holle has a way with words.  Based on her electronic book, You Are Not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living, Black Pants Productions moves her words to the stage and while for me it actually works better as a piece of ‘theatre’ than in its original written form, both suffer from being a little one-note.

You Are Not DeadAudience members become attendees in the Fakeproject Corporations’ You Are Not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living seminar.  Led by Rep 1 (Adam Berquist) and Rep 2 (Jessica Harvey), we become sometimes active participants as they guide us through their eleven step process. Examples of some of the eleven steps include “Stop Identity Theft Before You Happen” and “Make a Debit to Society”.  And much like the eleven steps, the text also contains a relentless onslaught of double-meanings, contradictions and playful wordplay that, while very clever, it is not sustainable even for the relatively short performance time (approximately 75 minutes including the “breather”).

Berquist and Harvey play the over-the-top seminar leaders with the necessary conviction that you almost believe they believe in what they are saying.  They also look the part, with Berquist in his perfect suit and lacquered hair and Harvey the perfect businesswoman in her knee-length skirt and hair in a tight bun.  Both handled the improvisational aspects well, especially after the “breather”, although they did not seem fully committed at the start.

Brandon Marback and Daniel Reetz’ visual effects raise the ubiquitous Powerpoint presentation to new heights and the answer buttons, that in the end don’t really record anything, are a nice touch although after a few uses lose their novelty.

As a satirical commentary on how we are passively complicit in our lives and how we are easily led, You Are Not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living falls a little short.  As a satirical commentary on how we can convince ourselves that motivational/wellness seminars are actually helpful, it scores a bullseye.

I suppose that given some of the prices motivational speakers command these days, the $20 admission price here is a bargain.  Just don’t bother with the $19.84 (wink, wink) companion manual when they try to sell it to you.

3 out of 5 StarsYou Are Not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living
SFU Harbour Center
May 27 – 5 June 2010

Black Pants Productions whose work draws upon the multidisciplinary tradition to highlight the absurd and the significant is pleased to present the world premiere of an original work You Are Not Dead: A Guide To Modern Living by Meg Holle. The first ever full length live performance based on an online novella, You Are Not Dead presents itself as the seminal wellness seminar sweeping up the nation. A multimedia must-see event. Tickets are $20 – $25 avaialble at Tickets Tonight or at the door.

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