If you are have both shots of COVID vaccine and are looking to ease back into theatre, One Yellow Rabbit’s bliss (the birthday party play) is a good choice. It explores deep concepts of self and revelations and vulnerability, without veering into darkness. It also breaks down the fourth wall and leaves the audience with a bit of a mystery as they leave the theatre. What more could you ask for from a night at the theatre?
bliss (the birthday party play) is a one woman show, with Jamie Dunston taking center stage. It takes place in the Big Secret Theatre, in traditional and cabaret style seating, which sets the atmosphere of the story. The story unfolds to an instrumental version of Nina’s 99 Red Balloons. Dunston welcomes the audience to her birthday party and she is excited and awkward. Her story is told in chapters and she tells us about the things she knows that she can’t unknow. The thing she wishes she didn’t know.
The play reveals how the narrator first learned about death, and how babies were made and we get to know the funny and charming and cautious side of herself. We come to understand that sometimes it’s better to just not ask any more questions, because the answers are really hard to hear.
There is audience participation in this performance and all the participants on Saturday night were ready and willing. It demonstrates Dunston’s ability to think on her feet, as the audience was pretty excited to be back in a theatre again, listening to stories.
Dunston embodies her character and is able to convey deep emotion on stage.
bliss (the birthday party play) runs a bit long. It draws out it’s conclusion which takes away from the poignancy of the narrative. The length is something that Dunston points out herself within the play, which is part of this production’s charm. The story could use just a bit of tightening up, and the potions of highest tension could use more theatrics in lighting and sound design to draw out the drama.
Hanna Loosen’s set design is lovely with soft light and white tablecloths to set the mood on the tables arranged cabaret style. There are also balloons that are important props throughout the space, that enhance the birthday vibe. Ajay Badoni’s lighting design bathes the stage in purples and reds, matching the narrative.
Karen Hines guides the play, making the moments of humour and vulnerability stand out.
It is which such joy to be back in the theatre among other human beings. If you’re ready to venture out to watch a story unfold in a dark theatre with your peers, bliss (the birthday party play) is a great choice.
It doesn’t matter if the story is a lie, right? (or is it?)
Photo Credit: Mike Tan Photography