Right out of the gate, The Huns (presented by One for One Collective for the Toronto Fringe Festival) feels uncomfortably, hilariously familiar. If you’ve ever sat in on a conference call that should have been an email, you’ll know this place and these people. Malfunctioning office tech, infuriating power dynamics, and an overwrought Powerpoint presentation some overachiever thinks will impress the boss: Michael Ross Albert’s take on the pressures of modern work-life is a thrilling hour of relatable madness.
With a destination bachelor party weekend on the horizon, Pete (Jamie Cavanagh) needs to be at the airport within the hour. Iris (Breanna Dillon) swears it’ll only be a fifteen minute meeting. Shelley (Cass Van Wyck) tries to keep everyone calm and focused, though she’ll soon realize it’s a lost cause.
They scramble with a malfunctioning monitor, try to organize the many outside callers, and mask their hostility with forced pleasantries. We find out that this is an emergency meeting. An office robbery has dire consequences for this company and all the global representatives need to be informed.
There is chaos and confusion as callers hang-up, reconnect, glitch out, and our main three become increasingly tense and volatile. Secrets are revealed and the stakes shoot up. Playwright Albert excels at continuous action, trapping the audience within a single situation that unfolds in real time, sliding inexorably towards either physical or emotional violence.
Director Marie Farsi ensures that this continuous action stays electric with nervous energy, even when our characters seem calm. Cavanagh, Dillon and Van Wyck give are riveting and do a fine job of convincing us of the brutal reality that lies under even our most well-build facades.
For me, the most impressive aspect of this production is the voices coming through that speaker-phone. So often, pre-recorded sound effects feel choppy and artificial, supposedly coming from some onstage source, but crackling out from the rafters behind you instead. I’m curious what sound designer Andy Trithardt has done to achieve this remarkable effect: the voices seem to be coming directly out of that little phone and yet are perfectly clear and audible.
And the voice acting! No awkward, uncanny rhythms from obviously rushed recordings—ugh, where the performer clearly has no clue what the energy of the scene actually is. Here though, not a single inflection breaks the illusion! You can see those people with crystal clarity in your mind’s eye. You know them.
The story goes to some dark places with the precarious mental state of Iris and Shelley. Both of their backstories showcase plausible existential dread and their rants have relevant weight, but I was never as fully invested in these deeper issues as I was with the more petty, overtly comedic conflicts that occur earlier on.
With razor-sharp precision, The Huns accurately conveys office culture—and the too-often dismal reality of working life—in all its dismal glory.