Get Cultured — October 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm

“Unhealthy” Gives Us a Glimpse into our Own Lives

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To the common person, horror stories are  full of monsters, demons, or some sort of supernatural disruption which ends in horrific things happening to those around it. The terror that precedes encountering serial killers and watching them do something awful in their world. To the common person these tales are as far from the truth as superheroes. Besides serial killers, the rest of the troupe of characters are very much works of fiction. So when we immerse ourselves in their world, we choose to be scared. We are letting them terrorize us. But that’s in their world — in our world things are less fantastic. In our regular life terror comes from bills in the mail, and horror comes from a bad date. In these lives the danger is subtle, less about the big evil, and more about the misunderstood one. That is why watching “Unhealthy by Darren Caulley was as frightening to me as the Lovecraft festival.

Expertly directed by Kelly Teaford, this play focuses on the building horrors of the everyday life and their consequences, not the ones with ski masks that walk very slowly. We all live a version of this. The story centers on Celia, who always feels like she can’t be as good as her roommate Michelle. Because of this, her best friend is a constant reminder of her own insecurities. Michelle, on the other hand, is crumbling with anxiety, but nobody can see it. She can’t deal with the pressure of having to be there for everyone, when no one really asks what she needs. Add to that a long distance relationship, an unstable fan, a new affair with a co-worker, and you can feel the desperation constructing the tension. But just like in real life, it builds up slowly, it grows and it assembles itself throughout the day, and when you least expect it: Bam! The world changes, your world, and all that’s changed goes unnoticed because it is not good. That’s why most people are scared by the idea of it, by the unexpected. Change could be good if you play your cards right, but mostly it is something that didn’t work out and now you have to adapt. Again. Keeping you unbalanced.

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That’s what “Unhealthy” sets up to tell, to make us experience the daily panics we weave through to be able to enjoy the day. And in such capable hands and an excellent cast, these horrors take shape and we feel them. Before I get into the next part, I want to comment on the performers. There’s a very amusing gimmick here — every night the director picks from two pumpkins which actor plays who. The performers (Kullan Edberg, Dan Gonon, Gerrit Thurston, and Laura Piccoli) come in without knowing who will they play, yet they all were a huge part of why this show works. They are real people, people you have had in your living room and share drinks with. These are the people you lived with in your twenties. They take it all in. I truly could not get enough of seeing these guys work. So with all these components falling into place, the show must be a certified success, right? It pains me to say no.

“Unhealthy” had me on the edge of my seat by bringing the ordinary into the spotlight, and making us realize how much we are affected by the little things that amount themselves into actual issues. It was about life and the fear in all of us to take it all without blaming others for what happens. It was about growing up and learning to be an adult in such a hard time. While I was watching the show, I kept hoping the ending I foresaw from the beginning was not the ending we got. Then we did. And the whole play just deflated itself until I was counting the seconds I could leave. The last two minutes fix this problem a bit, then in the last thirty seconds they pull another twist which made the whole thing fall from unique to generic. And that was heartbreaking to me. I will not spoil what happened, but I saw almost the same ending just a few months back on “The Boys Are Angry” and that wasn’t the first time. It could work, but it did this particular play a disservice. It gave it the big ending the writer was sure hoping for, but this play deserved the more quiet, subtle finale.

So do I recommend you saw it? Yes, I wish I could again. The cast and directions are on another level from the script, and two thirds of the show is engrossing. The ending does take away points, and it’s the reason for my rating, but it is a divisive one. Besides that, the writing is as good as the other aspects, but it is the one that fails them at the end. A shame since the production itself was top notch, and reveals The Battalion Theatre company as a crew to follow. I certainly will.

Out of 4 stars:

two-and-a-half-stars

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Twisted Talk: Have you seen “Unhealthy?” Do you agree with our rating? Discuss below!

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