Director: Harry Judge Playwright: Rob van Meenen Starring: Pat Kiely, Amy Matysio, Robin Dunne, Ava Markus, Imali Perera Runtime: 105 minutes
Full of sarcastic wit, a comic cast of characters, and enough heart-wrenching moments to punch you right in your humanity, Repetitive Strain Injury is a play of its time, and that time is now.
Written as the follow-up to van Meenen’s first full-length play Burn, Repetitive Strain Injury follows the lives of soon-to-be newlyweds Dave (Pat Kiely) and Julie (Amy Matysio). As they navigate the stress of their upcoming nuptials, Dave gets support, and sometimes questionable advice, from his best friend Guy (Robin Dunne). Meanwhile, Julie seeks support from a random telemarketer who calls the house, Pia (Imali Perera). While we follow them over the lapsed course of a year, their story is designed to cause the audience to question their own agency in the course that life takes, whether we have any at all, or whether everything is just up to fate.
Van Meenen outdid himself with this script. Not only is it heart-warming in parts and thought-provoking in others, but it also contains just enough bits of self-awareness, and deprecation, to make it a meta-masterpiece. He wields foreshadowing as deftly as J.K. Rowling, rolling the ball slowly and letting it gather momentum while the audience is distracted elsewhere. Drawing the audience’s attention subtly to ironically used tropes and intentionally subverting stereotypes, van Meenen utilizes the best brand of humour: the kind that makes you think. And puns; puns are great, too.
A play this funny depends a lot not only on its well-written script, but also on the delivery of the actors. Though all had superb delivery, Robin Dunne stole the scenes. His Guy was so over-the-top a stereotypical jerk, who turned out to be anything but, that is was hard not to laugh before he even opened his mouth. Utilizing all the space given to him, jumping on furniture, running around, and turning in circles, he kept all eyes on Guy. Even though his comedy was hysterical, it was his vulnerable moments that really showed his range as an actor. Guy’s character is the one most people would be able to relate to someone they know in real life, and serves as a reminder that the seemingly boundlessly confident and selfish Barney Stinson-types among us are also human.
This production was a feast for all the senses. The set and costume design for the play was as well done as every other aspect. Responsible for this feat was Trevor Schmidt, who had the foresight to make the costumes and the set co-ordinate perfectly. The backdrop was comprised primarily of a floor-to-ceiling wall painted with goldenrod, red, blue, grey, black, and white horizontal stripes of varying widths, gradating from narrow to narrower. Each of the characters’ outfits drew on this colour scheme beautifully, usually using solids so as not to distract from the action unfolding before our very pleased eyes.
Repetitive Strain Injury is an exceptionally well-done show, with every little detail showing immense care and craft. With a very limited engagement of one week, make the choice to see this humour-filled piece. And if you miss it? Well, maybe it wasn’t in the cards.