The Unfortunate Ruth at Uno Fest 2016. A review.

The Unfortunate Ruth at Uno Fest 2016. A review.

Uno Fest audiences will remember Tara Travis from her performance in The Six Wives of Henry the Eight (Uno 2014) a multi-character, rapid-paced and highly comical historical “play of possibility”.  Her facility to switch characters and accents engendered such buzz and audiences that the show was moved from the Intrepid Theatre Club to the much larger Metro Studio, and sold-out.

In The Unfortunate Ruth, Travis unveils two personae—Ruth and Ruthie.  In a felicitous collision of big ideas—quantum entanglement, mother-daughter relationships, positive thinking, physical deformity, self acceptance, the twin bond—accompanied by the accomplished animated shadow projections of Mind of a Snail, Travis enters parallel universes with two distinct lives.

This delightfully awkward tale is full of sharp observational comedy and pithy commentary on modern life.  From the moment Ruth, burdened with a hump she calls her “hunch”, enters her office and places a small urn on the desk, there is an aura of mystery.  Travis takes her time in revealing back story and presenting character motivation and isn’t above deftly poking fun at touchy subjects.  Ruth—despite her apparent physical difficulties, is bold in her choices and happy in life, if somewhat blind to harsh reality.  The injunction “unicorn” pops up whenever things get bleak.  Her doppelganger Ruthie may no longer carry 100 pounds of excess weight after a successful dieting program, but the psychic scars of parental abandonment remain.  Plagued with an undiagnosed abdominal growth, hesitant and unsure in her approach to life, she longs for love and acceptance, quoting affirmations on her path to true happiness.

Musical selections (sound design Jon Paterson) provide a cheeky subtext. Ruth and Ruthie both work with a man named Gary, heard only as a voice through the office intercom, and accompany him to foreign films and karaoke nights.  The interactions with Gary are telling—easy for Ruth, fraught with second-guessing for Ruthie.  It’s when it comes to their growths that the situations are reversed—Ruth names hers and is conflicted about the upcoming and necessary procedure; Ruthie can’t wait to be rid of her mass.

Back and forth, invisible forces rule.  The Unfortunate Ruth is a compelling story with many twists, turns and complexities, hurtling to an inevitable and unexpected conclusion. Completely invested in the lives of Ruth and Ruthie, my heart both sank and soared at the end.

The Unfortunate Ruth,  written and performed by Tara Travis
Sticky Fingers Productions
Wednesday May 18, 8pm/Thursday May  19, 6:30pm/Friday  May 20, 9pm
Metro Studio (corner Quadra and Johnson)
Tickets $20
Wednesday May 18 is Pay What You Can
Duration 70  minutes

Unless otherwise noted, tickets available at Ticket Rocket, 1609 Blanshard Street (at Fisgard) or by phone 250.590.6291, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm

Directed by Jim Travis
Dramaturgy by Kathleen Flaherty
Original Shadow Projections by Mind of a Snail
Costume Design by Adam Dickson
Sound Design by Jon Paterson

Disclaimer:  I was provided with a complimentary ticket to The Unfortunate Ruth.

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