In the program notes for Theatre Replacement’s The Greatest Cities in the World, Directors James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto tell us they develop their theatre to “make things more difficult for ourselves”. Unfortunately, they also made it difficult for the audience.
Based on interviews of residents from various Tennessee towns with such names as London, Rome, Athens and Paris, The Greatest Cities in the World retells these interviews, word-for-word, through seven actors on stage (Ruben Castelblanco, Nneka Croal, Susan Elliott, Young-Hee Kim, Andrew Laurenson, and Michael Rinaldi).
Along with the verbatim recitation of the interviews, the actors use various actions listed by some of the interviewees in video clips, such as “slap your ass”, “pull down your pants” or “drink a beer”. While we are never told why the interviewees are asked to provide these actions in the first place, the repetition of the actions, continuously underscoring the actors’ performances, or as part of larger choreographed numbers, quickly became distracting and tiresome.
There is virtually nothing here to tie any of the stories together, no theme and certainly no conflict. At one point the actors recreate a drunken party which ends up no where in particular. Even when provided with an opportunity to explore themes of racism, infidelity and small town values, the company chooses to ignore that opportunity and we quickly lose interest.
With the exception of one scene as they talk about their favourite interviewee, there is no comment from the performers about the people that were interviewed. I found myself desperately wanting more insight from the performers, many of whom actually travelled to these towns and conducted the interviews. Similarly, the interviews are pretty much one-sided providing little clue into what sparked a particular subject or providing any context as to why most things are said.
Ultimately for me The Greatest Cities in the World is a wasted opportunity with no connection between the interviewees and the famously named towns they live in or in any deeper understanding of who these people are.
The Greatest Cities in the World
Historic Theatre at the Cultch
9 – 13 March 2010
Tickets are $22-$40 available online or by calling 604.254.6995.