Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Last updated: 6 hours ago

STATIONARY: a recession-era musical exposes the woes of post-grad life

Christine Quintana/The Ubyssey

STATIONARY: a recession-era musical is, unfortunately, all too relevant to prospective graduates of UBC. The show, whose cast and crew is made up almost entirely of recent UBC graduates, is a parable about the “millenials”: the current generation of 20-somethings who find their prospects for meaningful employment diminishing in a reality that no longer reflects their idealism.

This is not to say, however, that STATIONARY is a sordid affair. On the contrary, the seriousness of the play’s premise is largely superseded by the hilarity of the production itself. Laura McLean, the director of STATIONARY and co-producer of Delinquent Theatre, likened the show to “an apple with a bit of a razor blade in it. It’s really sweet and it’s great and it’s fun, but there is something biting in it at the same time.”

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  • STATIONARY: a recession-era musical
  • July 18-29, The Cultch, $17
  • Company: Delinquent Theatre
  • Director: Laura McLean
  • Composer: Michelle Cutler
  • Playwright: Christine Quintana

In its first incarnation, STATIONARY was titled PARKED: an indie rock musical for novelty instruments, and comprised only four songs spanning ten minutes. It was first performed last year at the Bridge Mix Theatre Festival, which used a parking garage as a venue. The peculiar requirements of the performance space compelled composer and music director Mishelle Cuttler to write a score entirely for portable instruments. This led to the use of “novelty” instruments, such as the autoharp, glockenspiel, melodica and ukulele.

But the decision was not merely logistical. Rather than being accompanied by an orchestra, the cast of STATIONARY play their own music. As Cuttler explained, novelty instruments allow the cast and crew of Delinquent Theatre to expand their repertoire of skills developed during their studies at UBC: “I think it’s really fun to make music more accessible to people who are doing it, and a lot of the actors in the show have taken on instruments that they didn’t really play before…. The fact that we are actor-musicians, it’s all visible onstage. I really love that, and I think that’s a very important aspect of it.”

Now that STATIONARY is at the Cultch as part of this year’s Neanderthal Theatre Festival, Cuttler has been able to increase the number of songs and incorporate more traditional instruments such as the cello and bass. The result is an eclectic mix of music that showcases the breadth of the cast’s talents, while ensuring the audience never knows quite what to expect.

Unlike most musicals, STATIONARY shines due to its range of genres. Earlier songs, featuring the eloquent canons and dance melodies of traditional musical theatre, segue into more inspired pieces, including a brilliant ode to ragtime and a couple of outstanding rap solos written and performed by Brian Cochrane.

The genre jumps are peculiar at first, but the performance maintains coherency through the pacing and wit of the script. Penned by Delinquent Theatre’s other co-producer, Christine Quintana (who, along with Cuttler, stars in the show itself), STATIONARY‘s dialogue is clever, pointed and almost too incisive. Characters we know from our daily lives are writ large on the stage, while several amusing pop-culture references evoke the ongoing concerns of the millenial generation.

It is perhaps because STATIONARY is so pertinent to the lives of the artists involved, and to those who see it, that the performance crackles with a certain zest. As McLean put it, “This is the sort of story that I always want to tell, because it’s so immediate and relevant to both me and everybody else involved.” Yet, in its light-hearted way, the show manages to characterize the woes of post-graduation reality without taking itself too seriously. As such, STATIONARY is a delightful balm for pre-graduation anxiety.

STATIONARY: a recession-era musical runs at the Cultch until July 29. For tickets, visit https://tickets.thecultch.com/show.asp.

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