How toxic is the shadow of celebrity…? Do our last words reveal anything about us as people…? Can money truly help us find happiness…?
These are questions I was very much NOT troubled by when watching Joe Irvine’s Citizen Kaneasaurus. Fun, zany, and irreverent, Irvine’s parody of Orson Welles’s classic film, Citizen Kane was a refreshing reprieve from the plethora of much more serious productions that our university’s theatre scene usually has to offer.
Don’t get me wrong – I love me some serious/thought-provoking/[insert-other-deep-sounding-adjective-here] drama; I’m more than happy to watch and/or be a part of something that’ll make me cry or get angry or leave a theatre space quietly stunned and contemplating my puny existence on this earth. But sometimes you just really, REALLY need a good laugh, y’know? And while we’re a university so rich in comedic output that we have a whole society dedicated to Comedy, there is often little opportunity for comedic actors in this town to exercise their talents and interests.
Enter Irvine’s play about a newspaper tycoon, one-time political figure, and twice-married dinosaur. (Complete with large, green, and very well-crafted papier-mâché t-rex head.) The legacy of Charles Foster Kaneasaurus (Jonathan Hewitt) and his meteoric rise and fall seem to hinge upon his last dying word: “Rosebud.” What does it mean? Is there a story here? Can the once-great man live on after his death in the paper and ink that shaped his life? Tasked with answering these questions is one determined reporter (Phoebe Soulon), whose series of interviews with key figures in Kaneasaurus’s life unfold flashbacks of insight into the green journalistic giant’s life.
Soulon served as the backbone of the play: her hilarious and measuredly-hammy narrative scenes as a film noir-style journalist lit only by a single street lamp (credits to technician and designer Grace Cowie for making me feel like I was actually watching a black-and-white movie on stage) contrasted with a more serious interviewing style which allowed her equally amusing castmates to shine. A particular standout was Molly Williams as both Kaneasaurus’s callous mother, and Susan Alexander, his second wife, which I now realise is curiously Oedipal casting… Deliberate? Who knows. What I do know is that I will never be able to un-see Williams’ surprisingly seductive would-be mad scientist enthusiastically making out with the toothy maw of Hewitt’s dinosaur head. ESPECIALLY since the beginning of said scene featured the tune of Unchained Melody but with new lyrics tailored to the production and performed by, I suspect, Irvine himself. Said dinosaur head did nothing to impede Hewitt’s excellent comedic timing as Kaneasaurus himself. At once charming and utterly obnoxious, the well-suited dinosaur with a deep love for sledding, money, being adored by all toed a difficult line of being hammy without completely alienating his audience.
Beyond these performances were an equally charming ensemble of actors, who as a team created a delightfully low-budget show. Granted, the overall production could have been slicker, several actors should have been much louder, and the jokes did get a little samey after a while. But honestly? It felt like a small price to pay for some cheek-achingly good laughs and a reminder that tongue-in-cheek parody and sauciness can be brilliant ways of appreciating great works of art.