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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Theatre review: You Are It is both intimate and uncomfortable

Stories of friendship is deepest in its more serious moments

You Are It is an exploration of female friendship, through personal anecdotes, games, and conversations with the audience. The audience is invited to participate and share their own experiences. Overall, the intimate nature of the show is challenging, as the performers depend on the audience to engage and when this does not happen the form loses its shape.

We are brought into the examination through a comparison of the performers’ definitions of friendship. For Deb Williams, friends are those that she meets on the bus and sparks a conversation with whereas Carmen Aguirre sees friends as ‘sisters’, women that she would take a bullet for.

At the start, the games and talk of friendship seem superficial as Williams and Aquirre discuss how smart, attractive, and damaged they want their friends to be in comparison to themselves. This surface level way of looking at friendship carries through most of the show, aside from a few moments that allow for a deeper examination of friendship.

At one point, Aguirre and Williams create a friend out of a doll. Using projections of the image they proceed to give her wrinkles and make her more human. One wondered during this section whether this form was highlighting the strength of female friendships, or doing more to reinforce stereotypes of women gossiping about their friends in a malicious sort of way? It felt closer to the latter.

While a comedic look at friendship, the comedy does not always land. A big part of this revolves around the intimate setting and attempt to make it a conversation with the audience. While the audience as spectator and participant is successful at times, it poses a real challenge. How does one invite an audience in? What does it take to make an audience comfortable enough to join in? It appears that they have not yet answered these questions.

The scripted nature of a show that is so personal, and trying hard to be conversational, is also the tricky. Since it is obviously scripted, some moments feel forced, and the honesty does not come through.

There are also moments where the performers engage with the audience about our own experiences, which really works. We are able to write down personal experiences and collectively shred them with a paper shredder. This is a funny and powerful cleansing ritual to rid ourselves of negative relationships.

The few times that the performers share more serious personal stories about their friendships allow for a deeper connection with them and with the value of friendship. The most powerful moment of the play came from a story of rape where the true meaning of friendship shone through.

The biggest challenge with You Are It comes from the engagement with the audience, and the attempt to keep it casual. The performers will hopefully come to find more engagement with audience in the run of the show.

You Are It by Sherry J. Yoon and Deborah Williams. Directed by Sherry J. Yoon. A Boca del Lupo Theatre production. On stage at The Fishbowl (100-1398 Cartwright St, Granville Island, Vancouver) until December 9. Visit for tickets and information.

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