The set for this contest/game, is an almost bare stage, containing a long folding table with one chair at either end of the table. But at the very beginning of the play, the performers draw a chalk square around this sparse set in order to accentuate the fact that the players are in a boxing ring-like combat zone.
Both artists are from Vancouver and are smart, articulate and aware of how to shape this mostly verbal, autobiographical diatribe into a theatrical event.
The format? The guys take turns tossing out a subject and then take opposing views in order to debate the topic to see if it's a thumbs up, or thumbs down. Some of the topics, like Stonehenge, are very briefly discussed, "It's a loser because it's a stone sitting alone in a field...end of debate"! Or "Sylvia Plath is a loser because she was massively depressed, but her novel Bell Jar is a winner!" While other topics like, Native Peoples, The Occupy Movement, space exploration, who is winning in the Middle East, or who's got more street smarts, take more time, less humour and more intelligent debate.
In some ways, this presentation is very much like watching two erudite, very entertaining and likeable guys sitting around, shooting the breeze, with topics covering everything from popular music, books, authors, sports, politics, food and science, to very personal issues, like, believe it or not, a somewhat gratuitous and awkwardly amusing bit on, who is better at masturbating.
The pair of combatants are well matched, with Youssef emanating from wealth and privilege and being well-informed politically & psychologically, while Long comes from a troubled middle class family and definitely possesses expertise in food and entertainment.
A lot of this material and presentation works for most of the topics, which clearly range from amusing and frivolous to interesting and/or thought provoking. But at times, some of the topics feel like filler, since the most dramatic and consequently most gratifying moments of this production occur as things become more personal, touching on issues to which most theatre audiences can relate, such as mothers, fathers, children, ageing and white trash v wealth, to name but a few.
Overall, an entertaining and at times thought-provoking production.
Winners and Losers
Written and performed by Marcus Youssef and James Long
Directed by Chris Abraham
Produced by Theatre Replacement and Neworld Theatre in Association with Crow's Theatre
Presented by Crow's Theatre in Association with Canadian Stage
Just closed, December 8 at the Berkeley Street Theatre.
Lighting Designer -Jonathan Ryder
Production Manager -Elia Kirby
Stage Manager - Brian Scott