Everybody lies and everybody cheats. Some of these actions are along the more benign points on the scale of good and bad as many of us understand it – and some of us use sliding scales to separate the white lies from the bold-faced ones, the minor incidents of cheating versus the criminal. Sorting out good from bad in a very grey area.
In Kat Sandler’s play Help Yourself, currently running at the George Ignatieff Theatre (GIT), Donny is an extraordinarily intelligent man who helps people do bad things. Donny does this by guiding his clients toward a rationalization for the bad thing they wish to do. And the weird thing is, outside of his job, Donny is a pretty decent and generous guy. Donny could be anyone.
Help Yourself (written and directed by Kat Sandler, and co-created by actor Daniel Pagett) is set in the well-appointed living room of Donny’s condo, which is also where he conducts his consultations. The dialogue is highly articulate, fast-moving and incredibly sharp, with flashback scenes showing us the evolution of Donny and Samantha’s relationship – told in reverse chronology – weaving in and out of Donny and Ted’s scenes. The fabulous script has an equally fabulous cast: Daniel Pagett’s Donny is a devilishly charismatic combination of lawyer/therapist, deeply engaging and repulsive at the same time. Tim Walker’s Ted is more than he appears to be, and the alcohol- and Donny-fuelled transition from the wimpy client we see entering Donny’s living room is quite remarkable. Tosha Doiron, as Samantha, give us a sexy, smart and supportive mate – and equal – to Donny with one significant exception. Donny is dark and she is light. They would complement each other completely were it not for the fact that she is uncomfortable with his chosen profession. The more alcohol Donny and Ted consume throughout the session, and the more Donny pushes Ted’s buttons, the more macho and primal their dynamic gets. Like fight club therapy. And the transition of that dynamic is riveting.
The question of where you draw the line between good and bad – and instances where a bad thing done for a good reason is okay – can be pretty subjective. And it gives pause when you remind yourself that to have someone else tell you it’s all okay makes it so. It’s as easy as that. And sometimes chillingly so.
Last night’s performance of Help Yourself sold out within 10-15 minutes of the venue box office opening – so best to reserve in advance or get to the venue early; the show runs at the GIT until July 14.
For the full schedule, check the Fringe site: http://fringetoronto.com