There are multiple storylines going on in Rel8shun, and the one that is described as central isn’t the one that is forefront on stage.
There is the relationship between Tyson (Tanner d’Esterre) and his new roommate Jeff (Duane Jones), who slowly become friends over the course of the play. There is the new relationship between Jeff and Li (Stephanie Orr), who meet in the elevator of their building and start a romantic relationship. Then there is the sibling relationship between Tyson and Chrissie (Taylor Thompson), which is difficult and emotionally charged, as Tyson has been shunned by his family for his sexual orientation and Chrissie keeps seeing him to try and get him to “pray away his disease.”
From the audience’s point of view, the relationship that is central to the plot is the romance between Jeff and Li, and then maybe the interesting dynamic between the new roommates, and last would be this painful sibling relationship that is thrown in… for kicks? But according to the description, this is the central relationship in the play. It’s not the only problematic aspect of Rel8shun. Central to the conflict between Jeff and his new girl Li, is the fact that his ex claims to be pregnant and isn’t sure that she wants to keep the baby. Li finds out about this on their third or fourth date, which would cause any reasonable woman to say, that’s too bad, and RUN the other way. Li seems like a reasonable woman. But she instead declares her potential love for Jeff and even STICKS AROUND when he calls the fact that he got together with her a mistake. It it may be that Li is not a reasonable woman, but she doesn’t really have a lot invested in this relationship to have her reaction here make any bit of sense.
Then there is the sibling relationship between Tyson and Chrissie. It’s a tough situation as they both try to make it work and there are some major issues and accusations that float around, but the narrative doesn’t delve into them. This relationship could take up the whole play, but it’s tacked on as an after thought and doesn’t really add to the narrative as a whole because it is poorly performed and written.
Rel8shun features a flat performance by Thompson that makes the scenes of this storyline tedius but also features a good performance from d’Esterre. Jones is genuine and likable as Jeff and Orr does a pretty good job as Li.
Overall, Rel8shun misses the mark entirely, filling the stage with illogical motivation and storylines that just don’t stick. The ending is quite painful, featuring a dramatic reading of a letter from Chrissie to Tyson, taking the play downhill fast.
Rel8shun is part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. There are 4 more performances left in the festival. More information is available online.