Review by Showbill.ca editor Joshua James Collis
February 24, 2017
A master storyteller delivers a charming performance on narrow subject matter before things fly into an awkward second act.
Taking Off premiers at The Belfry Theatre this week. Playwright and star Deborah Williams delivers an engaging one woman show; it’s a shame the scope is so narrow.
This is the story of a Caucasian woman hitting middle age. Deborah (the character) takes the kids to Costco, hosts a barbecue with her the neighbours and doesn’t understand foreign concepts like vegans or transgendered people. Another middle-aged white character is hard to get invested in when these ways of being are commonplace.
Deborah is an unabashedly great performer. The first act of Taking Off is a breeze. The humour caters to the middle aged, particularly women with children. Growing old humour runs amok, and is done well. Though the scope is so narrow it’s a challenge to relate.
The well-directed show makes good use of The Belfry’s smaller second stage. Perfectly timed sound effects bring the pantomime to life.
The first act’s earnest revelry gives way to a painfully awkward second act that almost seems like it belongs to another show. Deborah’s character attempts to escape her mundane life with a vacation, only to find her passport expired.
Williams attempts to glean humour from what is really only abuse of an airline employee. Her efforts to berate the boarding agent into letting her onto a plane take up nearly the entirety of the second act.
The first act does spend time setting up Deborah’s poor memory, so it fits that the character would forget to check her passport’s expiry. The amount of time spent on this bit just stamped the performance to a halt and went from endearing to excruciating.
The one-person performance of Taking Off would be a great fit for The Fringe Festival or even Uno Fest. It has interactive elements, and the (potentially) dreaded audience participation, but it’s much too long.
Taking Off may be stronger if it changed to one 60-minute performance rather than an hour, an intermission, followed by 30 minutes of awkwardness. The breakdown and moral of the story would have more power if it were closer to the loveable parts of the character.
Taking Off doesn’t completely lack universality. Deb is unilaterally hilarious. People all have body image issues, concerns of growing old and dreams of getting away. Not everyone is a middle-aged mom.
The Bottom Line
Taking Off is intended for a narrow audience and fails to explore any dynamic new ground. It’s great for a chuckle, particularly for those that have experience middle-age and middle class.
The Belfry Theatre
Feb 21 – March 12