Five amiable, apparently clean-cut 20somethings line the front of the stage and, being dedicated to self-revelation, thank the audience for coming and then recite the contents of their social media profiles. Their height, eye and hair colour, fashion choices, and ambiguous personal details are stated in a humorous slightly competitive manner. They then begin citing musical preferences and Five Faces for Evelyn Frost takes flight.
What begins as character-defining - what could be more personal and revealing than one's musical tastes? - quickly becomes a nasty game of one-upmanship. Guilty pleasures, obscurities and pretentious connections battle it out for who is the most interesting character. The names fly out faster and faster until the voices become musical themselves, a rhythmic spoken word symphony. It is very funny and very familiar, perhaps too familiar, we've all played that game.
From music to celebrities known, to parties attended, to books read, to criminal activities, to debasing sexual acts, to reasons to be pitied, the five compete for supremacy and attention. And it is quickly revealed that they don't always tell the truth and that the actual truth is flexible if not unknown. The more they try to define themselves, or the image they want to project in that instant, the more disconnected they become from any sense of self or reality.
Playwright Guillaume Corbeil has a point to make about social media's affect on us. And he makes it clearly and concisely very quickly. From there, Five Faces for Evelyn Frost is a one-trick pony of a s how but it is a very good trick that bears repeating, his choice is to go darker and deeper into some very horrific and comedic places. He is ably assisted by a clever production that makes good use of projections, simple props, constant visual distraction and a cast that manages to be appealing while playing characters who are playing at being blasé and full of ennui. The twist, or illogical logical extension, towards the very end is finely pitched to make the audience choke on their laughter and then laugh again.
The cast is truly an ensemble and they are compelling as a unit and as the cogs that make up the group. Whether just speaking foward, executing the split second timing that turns the words into musical poetry, or executing simple but effective choreography, they project an outer calm that contrasts with the rapidly escalating internal panic. It is facades within facades that they deserve credit for turning into credible everyman individuals. Steffi Didomenicantonio the status-conscious party girl, Tara Nicodemo the intenser and more sexual party girl, and Laurence Dauphinais the pseudo-hippie are all stereotypes that through charm and subtlety become well-rounded, deliberately over-rounded, characters.
Who each member of the audience identifies with will depend on our own myths and aspirations of social placement. For me there was an urge to see myself in Alex Weiner's sexy but shallow post-frat boy, but I winced many times when I saw myself in Nico Racicot's pompous sexually-fluid wannabe artiste snob. They are all very good and there were many moments when little electric gasps of nervous laughter sparked through the audience as, one by one, we flinched in recognition. It is a very contemporary flinch, and there is only one section where the projections attempt to link social media behaviour and its affect to historical antecedents. But, with updates every few months of the references and technological changes, Five Faces for Evelyn Frost will remain as relevant as it is right this instant. That is a horrifying and sad thought.
As the audience filed out, it was almost impossible, out of habit or need, not to resist checking our phones. Throughout the theatre and lobby hands reached for pockets, hesitated, and then looked around guiltily. I was a block away with no-one in the vicinity before I dared to open Facebook and put an emphatic "like" on the Five Faces for Evelyn Frost.
Five Faces for Evelyn Frost continues in English until Sun, March 5, then in French with English surtitles from Tues, March 21 until Sat. March 25, at the Berkeley St Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. canadianstage.com. theatrefrancais.com