Playwright Damian Rumph captures a relatable story for anyone having grown up (gay) in the 80s in Meatloaf Jesus. And as the 80s references come as fast and furious, Rumph does manage to show us at least some of the beef.
Taking place in Edmonton at a time when the hockey-mad town was devastated by Wayne Gretsky’s trade to Los Angeles, a group of high school friends on the verge of graduation do what comes naturally for kids of that age: question life, drink too much, and experiment. And Rumph includes it all.
The problem with cramming so much into the sub-sixty minute runtime is that it all feels rushed. And while we know exactly where the story is headed, there is little time to go deep. Even as the playwright zeroes in a particular moment in their lives (the show is inspired by his own), we are left feeling cheated in not getting to know his characters.
Lissa Neptuno as the “I’m not a slut” Theresa is a powerhouse, managing to capture her character’s confusion with surprising clarity and is the most well-rounded of Rumph’s characters. She is the person any teen secretly hopes they have alongside them growing up, and not just because she is willing to give you a hand job. Tarun Keram as the questioning Mark goes full-throttle with his single motivation and a hefty dose of hormones and Patrick Mercado’s bravado is admirable.
Rumph inserts himself into his own play as the older Mark, but while it may have helped at the top to set the stage, his presence part way through interrupted rather than enhanced. Since he also presents his story as a memory, he provides virtually no insight into how what transpired helped to shape who he is now.
Rumph explores some relatable universal themes that transcends the decade of the boombox and big hair. I only wish he had provided a few answers too.
Meatloaf Jesus by Damian Rumph. Directed by David C Jones. On stage at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Ave) through September 14. Part of the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival. Visit http://vancouverfringe.com for tickets and information.