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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: Subway Stations of the Cross lacks a message

On paper, at least, Ins Choi’s Subway Stations of the Cross is a compelling idea.

There is little doubt that Choi’s real-life encounter with a homeless man in a Toronto park had a profound effect on him personally given everything that has been written about it.  The real skill though comes from transferring that encounter from his head and heart to the heads and hearts of his audience.

As entertainment goes, Choi is a likeable performer with a surprisingly good singing voice and he is a decent slam poet.  Dressed in rags as the homeless man, Choi stands on a cardboard stage singing, playing the ukulele, reciting poetry and even telling a few knock-knock jokes.  Individually some of the bits work, but they quickly add up to nothing more than some disconnected ramblings of a mentally ill man that one might encounter on the streets of Gastown or Granville Street.

Choi simply presents his disparate material as if his audience will somehow have the same profound experience as he did during his real-life encounter, but misses the opportunity to pull it all together.  Even his evocative title is a misnomer, as other than a mention of the Stations of the Cross in on one of his poems, Choi fails to make the connection.  The provocative communion that he performs at the end of the piece may be strangely beautiful, but it has little emotional impact (although to be fair, true believers may find something in it).

In his recent interview with Vancouver Presents Choi maintains that his encounter with the homeless man was as if he had been visited by an angel or a prophet of God and within the ramblings was a message.  But the real clue comes when Choi confesses that he has no idea what the message was.  Unfortunately neither does his audience.

Subway Stations of the Cross created and performed by Ins Choi.  A Pacific Theatre production in association with Soulpepper Theatre.  On stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12 Ave, Vancouver) until November 23.  Visit for tickets and information.

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