Theatre SKAM play explores addiction and wanderlust in New York City
If you’ve been to art school, you know that kid who always talks about moving to New York. Maybe it’s you? In It’ll Come to Me presented by Theatre SKAM, a struggling actor has the guts to follow through with his dream.
Inspired by his own experiences, Christain Martin both wrote and starred in this play, sharing his struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism. Explored through memories, we as the audience get a glimpse of his arrival — Martin’s hometown friends bid him farewell with nothing but a dollar in his pocket — and eventual departure from New York City. Martin’s vulnerability is admirable and captivating.
There’s a lot to like about this production. In particular, director Matthew Payne utilizes the full talents of his creative team; not one member of the cast or crew is wasted. Lighting designer Logan Swain, plays with color and tone to effectively create a warm and hallucinatory atmosphere. Swain and Payne also designed the simplistic and effective set — it allows for lighting to rise from under the stage boards. I also thought staging this production as theatre in the round, where audiences surround all sides of the stage, provided an atmosphere that was both informal and inviting for the audience.
Four projectors light up the space as we bounce from location to location in the plot. Projection designer Pedro M. Siqueira immerses the audience in subway cars, restaurants, and even the script itself as Martin shares his lines with the audience through the projector screens. We follow along as he recites his monologues, and are reminded of how beautifully words can flow off a page.
Ensemble members Lynnéa Chan, Andrea Lemus, and Kathryn Popham were on fire. They spoke rapidly while remaining present and connected to each other. They move through the space with purpose, changing voices and physicality as they take on various roles in Martin’s life: lovers, relatives, and, even, landlords. When not in a scene, the actors remain engaged as observers, watching from the sidelines.
Additionally, Payne challenges typecasting as the ensemble actors play a variety of ages and genders. Lemus is particularly hilarious as a feisty beefcake.
The jazzy beats by musicians Alfons Fear, Kelby MacNayr, and David Santana invite us into Martin’s mind, like a live version of Birdman. I commend the team for this creative choice as underscoring is a film technique that theatre doesn’t utilize enough.
However, there were moments I felt the pace of the play could have slowed. Particularly, Martin’s descent into homelessness after his father’s death and his struggles with girlfriend, Holly. Some scenes went by so fast that I occasionally missed lines from actors. An advantage of the projections was a consistent reminder of our whereabouts.
It’s tricky, as audience members we know that despite his problematic circumstances, Martin is going to survive — that’s why he’s sharing his story today. So, how does the play keep the stakes high and unpredictable when the ultimate outcome is already known?
Payne’s solution is to use humour to engage the audience. There were moments in the show when I laughed a lot. From Martin getting drunk with Sean Penn, as the chorus celebrates, “Jack straight, thank Sean Penn!” to one of my favourite lines, “You got here just in time. New York is running low on actors,” this play was full of funny quips.
The hour and a half sped by like a subway car. I was thrilled to be on board for the colourful and fast-paced ride.