Disturbing site-specific show turns the tables on its actors
Now Magazine Toronto, 7 November 2002
Hail, Seizer. Spencer Hazel’s dark look at our appetite for exploitative entertainment might overstate its case at times, but it’s a visceral, chaotic carnival of thoughts and emotions.Using the back section of the Velvet Underground as the playing area, Hazel and director Susan Doyon evoke a modern-day Coliseum where we, the audience, sit and judge the actors, or gladiators, on display.
The show is set up like a nightmarish TV talk show, with the menacing MC/host Seizer (Paulino Nunes, exuding alpha male charisma) barking out orders to the actors, making them jump through — or seem to be jumping through — emotional hoops to reveal personal secrets.
One actor (Lauren Evans) admits she was abused as a teenager; another (Sean Dixon) confesses he hardly sees his five-year-old daughter; a third (Leanna Brodie) reveals that as an actor she feels like a prostitute. Fact or fiction?
By using the actors’ real names, Hazel draws on the audience’s prurience, our bloodlust for autobiography and crude confession. The proliferation of reality-based shows makes the piece more relevant than it must have been when it premiered in 1997.
Hazel can be repetitive. And at times he bites off too much, as when he has the actors enact a scene from the film Cleopatra and wants at once to deconstruct the off-screen romance between Burton and Taylor (they’re projected onto a screen), allude to his own play’s title and make us see how we use film to express our banal thoughts about love.
But at its best, this is one of the more successful site-specific works I’ve seen. Nunes, Brodie and especially Dixon (whose monologue about eating in a restaurant is a highlight) yank us into the material.
And the production elements — soundscape, set, video — sizzle.