Consumption Patterns, showing at the 2020 Next Stage Festival, is presented as a series of monologues, held together by a strong thematic through-line and an epic, trippy sequence that plays like a fever dream of dystopian, capitalist excess.
Playwright Kevin Shea has crafted striking personalities, intensely relatable in their desires, obligations and obsessions. We get brief glimpses into their struggle to stay afloat in a sea of consumer products, societal expectation and a looming of awareness environmental disaster.
Some moments feel truly iconic: the work-obsessed lawyer with her rigid expectations for a trophy husband, the skin-care obsessive who is neurotically conscious of the water he’s wasting, the stay-at-home mother who laments the loss of her one true friend in a life of relentless responsibility.
Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Sochi Fried, Ben Sanders, and Jonathan Tan play multiple parts. Their body language for each is so distinct that you know who these people are almost before they speak. And here, Lindsay Dagger Junkin’s costumes underscore that crisp character work with telling details of texture, colour and style.
During an extended sequence of harmonized movement, their individuality is lost to the collective energy of one frantic hive mind. And there is an eerie truth in Patricia Allison’s stylized synchronization. As unique and precious we believe ourselves to be, we are also aware of the massive machinery at work in the world and our bleak position as disposable cogs within it.
Jill Harper’s direction, even when people seem completely still, is charged. Silent figures frequently appear or disappear behind a character as they speak. Their movements, ever so briefly, seem connected, but more to the point: their peripheral presence feels tense, ambiguous…yet purposeful.
Clothes, make-up, drugs, toys, services, destination vacations—these take up space, time and money. And then more. And more. And still more. Market research, mass production, land fill, debt. Scary words abound here. In Shea’s text, they caress and pummel and disorient.
But there is humour to be found in the madness. And hope too. A touching finale suggests the possibility of finding peace and genuine meaning within our modern world, materialistic world. And after seeing so much of my own anxiety reflected back at me, it was truly beautiful to glimpse a healthy future too.