Ireland's Untold Wants Theatre presents North American premiere of The Human Ear

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The Human Ear | Untold Wants Theatre | Pacific Theatre | July 18 – 25, 2018

Sometimes we want something to be true so badly that we will it into being. When Lucy gets a knock on the door from a man who looks like her brother (who she hasn’t seen in ten years), she doesn’t question it. She invites him in, tells him he’s welcome to stay, and gives him a key. Lucy’s boyfriend, Ed, is a local cop who doesn’t believe it could have been her brother at the door.

Ireland’s Untold Wants Theatre presented the North American premiere of this play first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015. Éanna O’Dowd as the brother and boyfriend, and Paige Louter as Lucy are captivating in this intense, fast-paced drama. Director Jessica Aquila Cymerman has them going from present day, to flashbacks and back again so fast it takes a minute to adjust. The way the text from multiple previous conversations is intricately woven into the present is very effective. Lucy’s mind is scattered, she doesn’t know what to think or who to trust, and flashes from her past keep interrupting her present. Alexandra Wood’s writing is deeply emotive and keeps the audience guessing even after the final scene.

Although many questions remain unanswered, it doesn’t feel like there are loose ends when all is said and done — it’s realistic and closer to real human experience in the way that things are not neat and tidy. There are always unknowns.

Lighting changes signalled a change in location, character, or time, but there were times that a more significant change in costume, more than a zipped or unzipped hoodie, would have helped make it immediately clear whether it was Jason or Ed who was speaking.

Phrases from early conversations are repeated throughout and are effective at signalling the theme and underlying meaning of much of the action. For example, O’Dowd repeats “It there anyone you’d like me to call” from his conversation telling Lucy that her mother has died after a bus bombing. When repeated later on it takes on new meanings and emphasizes the fact that Lucy feels alone and could use a call for help.

Eventually, Ed risks his job and steals a human ear from a morgue to prove to Lucy that the man at the door was not her brother. In her most vulnerable moment, she tells him that for the past two hours she’s had her brother back in her life and the world was better. What is the harm in letting her believe he was there? Part mystery, part family drama, this is an enthralling two hander performed on a bare stage that highlights the need for human connection, our capacity for forgiveness, and our weaknesses of revenge and regret. The evocative dialogue and skill of these two actors filled the small stage, grabbed our attention and never let go.

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