By James Karas
P@ndora is a complex and provocative play about teenage angst, pornography on the internet and the fundamental problems of growing up. It veers between dream or let’s say “unreality” and reality and is frequently surreal.
That may seem like an unlikely choice of play for Young People’s Theatre but Sarah Berthiaume’s work is a remarkable vehicle for inciting thought and discussion in the young and not so young.. The opening day audience consisted of high school students who are no doubt living through some of the issues raised by the play and can identify on some level with the characters.
Bria McLaughlin and Sean Colby
The all-gifted Pandora of Greek mythology was given a box by Zeus containing all the evils of humanity. She disobeyed the order not to open the box and thus unleashed all the evils that you can imagine on us. The @ in the title no doubt suggests that the internet is a great gift to us but it also contains a great deal of evil.
Pandora of the play (played marvelously by Bria McLaughlin) is a high school student who meets a pervert in the washroom. She opens the website that he mentions and discovers pornography. We get a fairly sanitized description of what she sees. One of the participants in the video is a person with a chicken’s head. At the end the chicken’s head is removed and Pandora sees her own face.
Pandora is worried about her looks – every part of her body looks bad, she thinks. Her friend is prettier and all the boys are after her. Pandora finds herself at a party and in a bedroom with Alex (Sean Colby), the boy that she likes and there are awkward moments of attempted sexual contact.
The pervert that Pandora met in the bathroom is Firefox (Sean Colby) and he is a constant presence in her life. Is he the tempter, a reflection of her inner soul, the devil - you can decide for yourself.
Sean Colby plays Firefox as well as Alex and he has considerable room for acting the evil as well as the good character. A fine performance indeed.
Alex and Pandora find themselves in a field of hydroelectric poles and it is impossible to tell if Pandora is dreaming or if they are in fact in this strange surrounding. The play is multi-layered and it grabbed and kept the attention of the audience. Among the layers there is a strong message about self-assertion, about not being sucked in by the evils of the internet and about finding your way out of the field of hydro poles and the addictive attraction of trash on the internet without fear.
Michel Lefebvre directs this fascinating play. It is acted in a black box (the Nathan Cohen Studio) with a large display case in the middle of the stage with fluorescent lights in it designed by the director.
P@ndora was commissioned by Quebec’s Youtheatre and is here produced in a translation by Nadine Desrochers.
P@ndora by Sarah Berthiaume opened on November 30 and will play until December 11, 2015 at the Nathan Cohen Studio, Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario. 416 862-2222. www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca