For those of you looking for something a little different this weekend, Red. Collective is presenting a mixed performance show for one weekend only down at Saw Gallery. Billed as Off the Cuff, the night is anchored by the presentation of an original play, Stillbirth, and also features musical and stand-up performances.
Should you see it?
The centerpiece of Red. Collective’s Off the Cuff is a roughly forty-minute play written by Kara Crabb, directed by Norah Paton, and starring Noa Nussbaum and Michael Showler. The play is called Stillbirth, after a young couple who have recently experienced such a tragedy and are dealing with what comes next.
On one hand, Stillbirth is fine. It seems to have a decent sense of its characters, a planned emotional journey, and some good moments — even if the ending seems to fall a bit flat. Where the play itself falters most is in its cutaways to off stage monologues which at their best, add nothing to the play, and at worst, repeat things we’ve just seen or are about to see. It’s spoon feeding information.
The monologues, in fact, may be why Michael Showler seemed to start off so rough, since he was competent enough as the show hit its stride. Noa Nussbaum was also a bit rocky throughout her performance but had some decent moments. In the end, it’s hard to tell whether Stillbirth felt shallow because of the acting or the material.
The big problem with it is that it comes ninety minutes into a sort of cabaret style evening. Off the Cuff, which was in serious need of an emcee to tell people what was going on, started with Roadhouse, a band who admitted to what was evident from their performance – it was their first ever show. Their music was good and fine for a two-person cover band, however there was no performance presence or attempt to fill the awkward gaping void between numbers.
Following Roadhouse and a short break, Jonah Allingham took the stage with a stand-up routine. It’s hard to say whether it was shocking because of the incredibly high level of vulgarity and language or because it was so unexpected. One person walked out halfway through and I suspect that had a third of the roughly twelve-person audience not been family members of Nussbaum’s and there to see her act, that number would have been higher.
To be fair, stand up is a hard thing to judge, especially in a small room, full of people who are not predisposed to be into it. In the right setting, with the right house, maybe Allingham’s Snowman might have been a hit. But this was not that.
Allingham was followed by Seb Ciel who is a fine pianist and has a wonderful voice. Unlike Roadhouse, whose set was short and sweet, Seb’s show went on for at least thirty minutes, which was about twenty minutes too long. He was engaging, but not that engaging.
All in all, Off the Cuff was a bit of a mess. One can say that, as the title implies, this was an 11th hour attempt by Red. Collective to salvage a booked venue following the unfortunate cancellation of their scheduled show. While that’s commendable and the night wasn’t without a few merits, we can only talk about the show that was presented.