The Phoenix Theatre’s ‘7 Stories’ held over to March 24 (for good reason)

Culture Theatre
As the sun starts to go down, the 100-year old  Lillian (Rahat Saini) admires the beautiful evening, while The Man (Lyle Hendriks) is lost in his own troubling thoughts. Morris Panych’s existential comedy 7 Storiescelebrates its 30th anniversary and runs at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre until March 23, 2019. Provided photo by Dean Kalyan.

With 7 Stories, the Phoenix Theatre ends their season with a bang

A man in a suit and a bowler hat climbs on to the ledge of the seventh story of an apartment building with the intent to throw himself off. But, much to his dismay, the residents inside the seven rooms of the story won’t let him (though not intentionally). They keep interrupting him with their own life problems — from a couple who can’t seem to spark romance unless they attempt to kill each other to a 100-year-old  woman who hasn’t left her apartment in 50 years. Everyone is either too busy or wrapped up in their own issues to notice the suicidal man right outside their window.

With 7 Stories, the Phoenix Theatre ends their season with a bang. Brought back for its 30-year anniversary, the Phoenix Theatre’s production of 7 Stories not only lives up to the legacy, but puts on a great performance in their own right. The black comedy satire is packed with a lot of laughs in between the philosophizing about the meaning of life and death from seven different perspectives.

The audience watches from the perspective of the ledge, with the residents leaning out of their windows as the man with the bowler hat awkwardly shuffles out of the way and lets everything happen around him. The set is a curved wall that slopes from the bottom of the stage all the way to the top with the ledge and the windows sitting in the middle. The set is effective, and feels like you’re staring at an inverted lens — it also doesn’t distract from the play once the actors step on to the ledge or lean out the window to scream at the world below.

The world of 7 Stories feels like it takes place across time. Though there are moments and costume choices that feel like certain characters are from inconsistent time periods — like the ’70s or the ’40s — these choices simply add to the strange logic and surrealist tone of the play, especially at the end. Even when things get serious, there’s a playful wink and nudge that leaves both a fun and thoughtful mood.

The actors, meanwhile, successfully manage in towing the line between comedy and solemness, striking that perfect balance for dark comedy that Morris Panych is known for. All players sell their character in the short episodes they have, ensuring that even the smallest role is packed with strong characterization and a whole lot of laughs.  By the end, it’s hard to pick a favourite amongst the cast.

If you’re in the mood for a dark comedy with some theatre meta thrown in for those theatre nerds, definitely give 7 Stories a chance.

7 Stories will now be running at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre until March 24, having recently announced it will be held over for an additional day.

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