Vagabond, presented by Glass Wall Theatre for the Hamilton Fringe Festival 2021, is a coming-out story that explores the fraught relationship between two queer siblings. Chelsea Haraburda and Ryan Percival perform and co-direct this piece written by Haraburda.
After fleeing to the woods to avoid the consequences of recently being outed, Jackie is soon joined by brother, Russ. The central conflict is their disagreement about whether either of them should come out to their father, whom they assume will not be supportive of their queerness.
While there are some very convincing raw emotions expressed, there is a stilted, rambling quality to the dialogue that feels sloppy. Part of my disconnect comes from a sense of the story not really being designed to speak to me—a queer person whose coming out was well over two decades ago and not in the least traumatic.
The projection and shadow puppetry aspect of the production is whimsical and engaging, but only for brief segments. Most of the drama plays out flatly in front of a projected background, with a dresser awkwardly left in the side of the frame. Only minimally do the performers interact with any of the playful elements, so most of the potential for truly dynamic world-building is wasted.
The lack of polish does bring a certain unique charm to the overall aesthetic, though it doesn’t really help me to understand or invest in the characters. The production is creative and ambitious, but lacks refinement.
The finale, when Jackie reveals their drag alter-ego, Jackson, to the world-at-large, does feel genuinely empowering. It is an undeniable thrill to witness someone confidently own truths, dispel falsehoods and definitively state their preference for specific pronouns depending on circumstances.
Vagabond has some compelling moments and intriguing visuals, but it needs more polish. The raccoon is definitely adorable. And the sequin goatee with camo jacket are undeniably fabulous.