Not quite as sprawling as Tolstoy’s classic 19th century novel War and Peace (which Woody Allen famously parodied in his 1975 film Love and Death), this drama by Bio-Punk Productions out of Ottawa nonetheless does tackle some pretty weighty subjects. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a social evil that isn’t alluded to in one form or another. Domestic violence? Check. School yard bullying? Check. Mass murder? Check. Sexual predation? Check. International terrorism? Check. Torture? Check.
Both actors are in their early twenties. During the 45-minute play, which also includes live musical accompaniement, the male and female characters they play shift back and forth in time. Central to the narrative is a high school shooting carried out by a boy who adopts the on-line handle of Mad Dog. Victimized by bullies at school, he fantasizes about exacting revenge. In an on-line chat room, he’s encouraged by a girl to act on his fantasy and inflict pain and suffering on those who have tormented him.
At another point in the narrative, the girl recalls witnessing her dad hit her mom during a heated argument. At yet another point, as young adults, they reminisce — if that’s the right word — about 9/11. The man recalls being in school that fateful day, at age 12, playing Pokemon with his friends. The woman, meanwhile, recounts being in New York on a visit, and losing a beloved uncle when the Twin Towers collapsed.
As the narrative unfolds, all the personal and societal tragedies that are flagged — again, if that’s the right word — do start to seem excessive. No one can be that unlucky, right? But remember, this drama is set in the postmodern age. Every day, through sensationalist mass media and Hollywood-style entertainment that inevitably favours prurient spectacle over reasoned analysis, we are exposed to a litany of individual and communal horrors that can leave a person feeling depressed/angry/scared/outraged/helpless — you name it.
To cope, some people simply tune it all out. Others perhaps become involved in a cause of some sort and work, on a micro level anyway, to promote change. What of children, though, and young adults? Lacking the wisdom and authority that come with age, they can, I imagine, feel overwhelmed at times when confronting all the challenges that currently face us.
Like a crash course in adolescent angst, this play drives that point home pretty effectively.