|Vancouver Little Theatre, 3102 Main Street
Sept. 13, 14, 15 at 12:00 noon
Tickets: $4 + GST
Review by Michael Brockington
Half an hour of comedy is a tough proposition. We all have reflex expectations from too many hours spent watching TV sitcoms. Comedy is supposed to be a disposable commodity. If live theatre is going to compete with 99 channels of canned TV it needs to squeeze a lot of life into 30 minutes.
Cherished and Forgotten offers the uncut stuff, a personal monologue written and performed by Benjamin Ratner. Four bucks gets you a 1/2 hour of life: childhood to adulthood, growing up and going crazy. He talks about lovers and family, dead pets and dead parents, and if it sometimes seems a little familiar, well it probably should. You've been there. Ratner has a loose, conversational style, continually interrupting himself with digressions and regressions, then returning to his original story. It's an effective way of making connections, a little bit like eavesdropping on someone else's therapy session.
The only prop on stage is a battered old kitchen chair, a split in the cushion sealed with black electrician's tape. Maybe you would recognize that chair. I know I did: it's the one I sat in every Sunday night for dinner when I was a kid. There are details like this in Ratner's stories that seem very personal, very truthful, and because he writes his own material, it leads you to wonder how much is cannibalized directly from life.
Yeah, it matters. There's a lot of funny material here, but it can quickly transform into something sad or horrible. Punchlines slip in at unexpected moments; not with television precision, but almost under their own power. Now you could laugh safely...if you were watching TV, if you knew it wasn't true. But if these things actually happened to this person standing, breathing, sweating ten feet away from you? There's a point where comedy eases over the edge into cruelty, and there's no laugh track here to keep you from feeling exposed.
Well, that's the nice thing about television, I suppose, there's no sharp corners. You don't have to worry about anything being true, not even the news. And what about Cherished and Forgotten, how much is life, and how much is theatre? "Anyway, this is my story," it says in the program, "and I'm sticking to it."