Summer Bucket List speaks to shared heartfelt experiences

Culture Theatre

This Fringe play reminds audiences of the terror and uncertainty of leaving behind the old for the new

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Summer Bucket List is a wonderfully written experience, courtesy of playwright Ellery Lamm. There are some great “laugh-out-loud” moments, made even better through fantastic acting. 

Two best friends, Zoe and Grace, are trapped in detention for the first two weeks of the summer. While cleaning lockers, they stumble across a summer bucket list someone left behind. It contains such items as having a lemonade stand, giving two blow jobs, getting drunk and high, and breaking into the public pool to swim at night. In order to make the most out of detention before Grace leaves for her last year at camp, the two girls decide to complete every item on the list.

But as the two weeks go on and the pair cross off more items, they come face-to-face with how terrifying growing up really is.

Every actor turns in powerful and striking performances, from Arielle Parsons (The Girl) monologues via therapy sessions, to Lee and Erin’s blow-ups about their hidden baggage that comes to the surface all at once. It’s hard to pick a stand-out moment, though Lea’s breakdown of all her lost dreams to Grace is a favourite of mine, surpassed only by the ending.

Maggie Martin (Grace) Lili Martin (Zoe) emphasize the awkwardness of being 15-year-old girls and sell both their big and small emotions. When Zoe whispers out a quiet confession that something terrible happened to her older sister Erin, it broke my heart. 

Another great aspect of the play are the creative scene changes. Usually when a scene ends, there will be a black-out of lights so that the scene can be changed, from set or costume changes, or just to indicate to the audience that a significant amount of time has passed. Each scene is relatively short, and according to one actor, Arielle Parsons, total black-outs killed the pacing of the play. To work around this issue, the entrance or departure of a character signals a scene or location change. It’s all so smooth and the actors sell it really well. Before things begin getting serious for Zoe and Grace, the darker scenes are left to The Girl’s monologues before everything begins to bleed together. There are times where scenes feel too short, but make up for it by transitioning in interesting, surprising, and non-convoluted ways.

The writing also works by switching focus between the characters, such as The Girl and Erin, and weaves them together in a way that feels very natural. It certainly helps that a singular theme runs through the play: growing up as a woman and the rage that comes from a uniquely female place — both as teenagers entering high school, and graduating, and realizing that what made you happy just doesn’t anymore. The desire to become “more adult” pulls you forward, but before you know it you find yourself in a box and you can’t get out. The ways that the cast handles this problem, especially how it applies to womanhood, unfolds in a terrifying, funny, heartbreaking, rage-filled, but ultimately hopeful way. 

Between the writing, acting, and directing, Summer Bucket List is a wonderful and heartbreaking experience. If a heartful coming-of-age story sparks any interest in you, check it out when you have the chance.