Two fathers and sons skate around their feelings in Zee Zee Theatre’s latest production

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Men Express Their Feelings | Zee Zee Theatre | Firehall Arts Centre | March 18 – April 3, 2022

It all started with a hug. Not an “appropriate man-to-man hug” that Brad’s father would have liked to see, but an embrace between two friends and teammates. Perhaps more than an embrace. Brad’s father, Mr. Bacon (Jeff Gladstone), comes to his own conclusions about what he saw in the locker room and confronts Raj’s father, Mr. Sharma (Munish Sharma), in the parking lot. Until they resolve their conflict off the ice, their sons can’t get back on the ice.

Sunny Drake’s witty script combined with authentic performances from all four actors makes for a compelling evening of theatre. The action alternates between scenes of Brad (Quinn Churchill) and Raj (Ishan Sandhu) in locker room and the present interaction with all four of them discussing the incident and their feelings.

Transitions between were cleverly marked by the characters mimicking skating and sliding to a stop before the action resumed. With sequined microphones, Brad and Raj often took on the role of commentators to analyze their dads’ behaviour and make wry observations. The exaggerated flashback sequences imagined through the perspective of their fathers were hilarious, with something like a hug turning into a sultry dance.  

The four men meet in the realistically messy locker room to talk about the incident and refer to a “feelings chart” as they decide whether they should try a sharing circle to get the discussion started. Through the scenes between Brad and Raj, we learn a great deal about their friendship and sexuality as Brad says flirtatiously, “If I was gay, I’d ask you out.” They discuss the nuances of what makes a certain sexual act gay or not, with Brad trying to deny his own preferences.

Brad and Raj have great chemistry as do their fathers. Mr. Bacon hilariously demonstrates a “man to man hug” for Mr. Sharma. He explains that “sports hugs are different” when Mr. Sharma questions his actions during the excitement of a good game. Mr. Sharma comes across as more sensitive and in touch with his feelings, while Mr. Bacon says things like “He played like a tampon—only good for one period.”

It gradually becomes clear that both Mr. Sharma and Mr. Bacon have emotional issues to work through and that their time in the locker room has been more productive than they could have imagined. They learn a great deal about themselves, their sons, and each other. When the coach comes to check on their progress, they at first beg to be released from the locker room; by the end they ask for more time in order to process their experience together. As Mr. Bacon says, “what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.”

It ends with a hug—a compassionate group hug in which all four men have had a chance to face their own demons including childhood trauma, toxic masculinity, and shame.

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