It was a very Toronto day. A preliminary iced Americano at Ezra’s Pound on Dupont, three bookstore pit stops, a picnic in the parkette off Barton and a ticket to a Fringe festival performance at the Tarragon. It’s almost like my urban duty to attend these festivals. If I’m going to pay $1,180 bucks in rent to live in the pulsating heart of the city, by god, I better be Fringe festing and sucking on Americanos and blogging all about it.
Love, Virtually (directed by David Owen) attracted me instantly. Googling reviews, I learned that audience members were entitled to a free iced coffee from the Big Smoke Coffee Company while in queue, just to get into the caffeinated groove of the play’s landscape—a coffee shop. And I’m a shoo-in for free crap, coffee and $10 theatre tickets.
“It’s like Shrondinger’s cat. As long as you stick to online dating without really getting to know someone, you’re perfect together without really being in a relationship.”
Lovelorn, borderline lovesick for Noah.
He’s her version of perfect.
But there’s a big catch.
And Matt thinks otherwise.
Cue up best friends Eden and Jennifer.
Playwright Chloe Whitehorn successfully landed a good smack on the face of Facebook and poked sharp wit-licked arrows into the belly of social media. Her stereotypical slams on the virtual dating world were bang-on with a very lol and rotfl-savvy audience. She muses, “in a virtual world where you can pretend to be anyone, how do you find someone who will love you for who you really are?”
I remember an Oprah episode (scroll back about 20 years) when she had invited a panel of men on stage who were the ‘authors’ of personal ads that had appeared in the newspaper (before the online dating scene spread like H1N1). This was back when Oprah and Rosie had a tug-of-war on Tom Cruise (before his couch-bouncing Scientologist days). After reading the personals ad aloud Oprah asked the man who, according to his post, “resembled Tom Cruise,” which part of Tom Cruise he resembled. Well, he did have the eyebrows. That was it.
Much praise, adoration and undying gratefulness to my dream girlfriend for saving me from ever having to cast a line on Plenty of Fish or the quagmire of eHarmony, et al. The not-so-whispery conversation on either side of me inside the venue from two packs of rambunctious women confirmed that the mockery on stage was too close for comfort.
Whitehorn dished out the truth serum. Of course we overshare with our 500 friends on Facebook. (Facebook made “overshare” a word, did it not?) We censor profiles with verbal airbrushes. We delete anything that is short of flawless. Dating profiles are even more refined. That outdated but still hot beach pic from 1999. Tanned and taut. The best accomplishments highlighted like a personal hall of fame.
In Love, Virtually, Whitehorn playfully and philosophically examines who we portray to the world via dating sites, Facebook and its relatives. The glossy virtual identities we create for ourselves with such buffed exteriors—are they us? Is it right that you can shop for shoes and partners at the same time? Between liking and poking you can flirt and ping and chat and twitter and tend to your crops on Farmville? And find true love?
The performance tonight skewered many generic profiles. Who doesn’t love walks on the beach (besides someone who is agoraphobic?). Who doesn’t like candlelit dinners? Doesn’t everyone like Mexican food? Who doesn’t like to travel?
The awkward first date-blind date conversation scripted between lovelorn Laurel and MrExtraordinary, DrRocket and CptCharisma were palm-sweatingly accurate. The coffee shop seats rotated with a comic barrage of online personalities—the hockey head, the outdoorsy guy, the financial district tycoon and the sci-fi freak that can do that weird Star Trek hand thing. All of them were deconstructed by Laurel’s BFFs with saucy intervention and heavy judgement. Eden (Krista Barzso) was appropriately sleazy and ditzy in that colourful Cameron Diaz sorta way. Jennifer (Eve Wylden) was the rational best friend balancing act, prudish in her pearls, pursed lips and book clubness, but full of ammunition in exchanging barbs with loose cannon Eden. Both found common ground in pumping pom poms in defeated Laurel’s direction.
We eventually learn why Laurel is so resistant to love in a twist that slowly reveals itself in a repeated coffee shop scene over biscotti with Noah (Nick Stojanovic). While humour overrides the performance, there is profound sadness in the gentle scenes with Noah after the coffee shop closes that elicit big heart pangs for the love that was meant to be.
Whitehorn carefully extracts the vulnerabilities of all the characters, and expertly showcases the fondue effect love has on us. The audience rallies for Matt, Noah and Oliver, all at the same time. As Laurel fights off the ghost of the proverbial what-if? relationship we watch and cheerlead with Eden and Jennifer as she does begin to find love eventually and virtually.
Tarragon Theatre Mainspace
Tuesday July 12 3pm
Thursday, July 14 12pm
Friday, July 15 8:45pm
Sunday, July 17 5:15pm
And…sip this: http://www.bigsmokecoffee.ca/