One for One Collective and The Spadina Avenue Gang present a remount of Michael Ross Albert’s The Huns at The Assembly Theatre. This tight and tense office drama was a highlight of my Toronto Fringe Festival experience back in 2019. I found it hilarious and thrilling then. And I do still, though something about it hits differently now—as we all slowly emerge from two years of… anxious disruption.
The Huns traps Iris (Breanna Dillon), Shelley (Cass Van Wyck) and Pete (Jamie Cavanagh) in an office during an awkward conference call with their international counterparts. Tensions are high in the aftermath of a security incident from the night before. The stakes shoot up as personal details are revealed, jobs go on the line, and our three characters get increasingly distraught and vicious.
Albert keeps certain elements of their situation vague. What exactly is the content of this “Gen Z” roll-out that has been catastrophically delayed? Only the context is important—that this could ruin investor relationships, tarnish reputations and end jobs. The corporate world and its dehumanizing pressures fuels our characters’ angst.
Once the false politeness of their office personae fully collapse, Shelley and Iris have monologues where they express aspects of working life that have scarred their psyches. Back in 2019, I found this dive into existential dread less compelling than the casual cruelty of their earlier banter. But Shelley’s rant in particular struck a deeper nerve this time around, one left uncomfortably exposed by pandemic uncertainty about the future.
Dillon, Cavanagh and Van Wyck have a solid, nuanced rapport. Even before the dramatic fireworks, the air is electric. We catch, in their furtive glances and forced smiles, the awful reality of how utilitarian and performative our lives can be and the toll that takes.
Cavanagh’s Pete has that cocky yet alluring office bro vibe, disarmingly affable until his chill is no longer tenable. As Iris, Dillon paints a riveting portrait of manic enthusiasm masking a desperate, failing grasp on a precarious self-worth. And then there’s Van Wyck’s Shelley, the office temp, quietly holding herself together until the moment that resolve ceases to benefit her.
Andy Trithardt’s sound design is an understated technical achievement. There are no clunky mechanics here, no sense of cues being hit. The voices coming though the speaker-phone feel part of the reality of the moment, lacking any of the stilted rhythms and slightly mis-matched energy that characterizes so many pre-recorded performance elements.
Albert is a master of continuous action, pressure cooker scenarios. The format requires very deliberate, considered pacing and director Marie Farsi maintains that. The Huns never relinquishes its hold. It’s a lean, mean thrilling machine.