LOVE + HATE: song and dance and pitch-black humour
by Drew Rowsome
Choosing which shows to attend at SummerWorks is a difficult process - so much choice and so many theatre-babble and pretentious descriptions. As the festival progresses, word of mouth (and hopefully reviews) make the choices easier. I picked LOVE + HATE for the most shallow of reasons: anything with music intrigues, the time slot fit my schedule, and I vaguely remembered that the stars, The PepTides, had released an album For Those Who Hate Human Interaction with a delicious cover.
Situated somewhere between a pop concert and a collection of sketches with music, LOVE + HATE works beautifully and is highly entertaining. This was my first encounter with The PepTides and they are slick, visually arresting and have musical chops to spare. Each musician is strong but when they launch into five-part harmonies, they raise the roof. There was not a program (and, inexplicably, not a merch table which I suspect would have been a profitable addition) and the website, peptides.com, seems designed to promote the band as an entity, not the individual members, so no singular raves, just an across the board salute.
The songs are melodically strong and have a consistent trick of tackling dark and disturbing topics by setting them to sunny, catchy tunes. LOVE + HATE opens with the sunny lyrics and bouncy music of,
Bullet in your brain, Fire up the crack
Shoot it in your veins, Wait for Armageddon
The PepTides continue through "I Love You, Made in China," "Don't Believe in Love," and "Love Sucks." A theme emerges. The songs are all engaging and the slick choreography is a joy to behold without calling attention to itself. The dramatic/comic sections that punctuate the songs have a flavour of their own, an initially unsettling blend of sketch comedy, Monty Python absurdism and the oblique hilarity of a New Yorker cartoon. While individual laughs are scarce, the rhythms and ideas grow and pay off powerfully. A running skit with an eye doctor hits with a nasty very funny black humour gag that blossoms into a heartbreakingly funny punchline. And I never expected to leave the theatre humming to the clap-a-log finale "We Are Born To Die," while trying futilely to dislodge the haunting tragicomic idea that: because orangutangs will be extinct by the end of the decade, we'll never understand the origins of love.
Smart, funny, musically delicious and leaving an aftermath of thought, LOVE + HATE is a tasty spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.
LOVE + HATE continues until Sun, Aug 16 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St as part of the SummerWorks Festival. summerworks.ca, peptides.com