Swallow-a-bicycle Theatre’s ‘Shortcut to Nirvana’ is funny but lacks richness

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‘Calm the monkey mind,’ is one of the lines from Swallow-a-bicycle Theatre’s newest play Shortcut to Nirvana¬†by Jacqueline Russell. What usually happens, when the average person tries to practice, is that the monkey mind goes crazy. At the beginning of the play (opening night was at Bodhi Tree Yoga) there is a sound clip of people talking about yoga. How their favourite part is the end where you get to nap. This aspect of the play is hilarious. It brings you intimately into the comedy that is at play in Shortcut to Nirvana.

The play tells of yoga guru Deva Sitar (Ian McFarlane) who has written a book entitled Shortcut to Nirvana and is touring to promote it. Two doctors Cortex and Cortex (Sonio Deleo and Andrew Merrigan) have invented a Kundalini-o-meter, which sets out to empirically prove the existence of enlightenment.

The first part of the play is meeting the incredibly pretentious and borderline ridiculous Deva Sitar and learning about his 7 steps to take a shortcut to Nirvana. McFarlane is committed in his physical appearance, his hair in a ponytail and shaved in parts as well, while he delivers his lines with a distinct effort of appearing like a guru who doesn’t have it together. His performance seems forced in parts, but his delivery at first is spot on. The two doctors are clowns to begin with, trying to do the yoga poses and taking notes and asking questions. Then the narrative doesn’t really have much more to say. We get a bit from each character about how they really feel, a bit of history and we even have an audience member participate (hats off to him as he was quite committed to being volunteered). Shortcut to Nirvana tries to draw lines and tell stories that are a bit too surface once you get past the making fun of yoga while in a yoga studio.

All three characters are building to finding a shortcut to Nirvana and there are underlying stories but the play in the end needs a bit of work to add richness to the overall narrative.

Shortcut to Nirvana runs at Yoga Passage May 8-10. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Laird Photography

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