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From left, Ravi Jain, Troels Hagen Findsen and Katrina Bugaj in Why Not Theatre's I'm So Close.

Mina Mikhail

I'm So Close ...

  • Conceived and performed by Ravi Jain, Katrina Bugaj and Troels Hagen Findsen
  • Co-written by Nicolas Billon
  • A Why Not Theatre production
  • At the Theatre Centre in Toronto

The ellipsis at the end of the title of Why Not Theatre's new show invites completion. I'm So Close ... I can almost feel it? I'm So Close ... and yet so far? I'm So Close ... but no cigar?

All could be descriptions of my reaction to this energetic young international company's short, sweet, but stilted show. Inspired by our ever-connected, ever-apart virtual culture and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, I'm So Close ... features many lovely moments of physical theatre, but never quite hangs together.

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Steve (Denmark's Troels Hagen Findsen) is an eco-entrepreneur who has invented a product called Chlorophyll Power Wrap that recharges portable music players and cellphones using available light. When a group of investors latch on to his smart idea, he's sent around the world to pitch his product and dig up more development money.

This leaves his wife Stella (Katrina Bugaj) at home, excited by her husband's success, but missing his physical presence. They keep in touch - an ironic expression here - via the phone and Internet, yet often Stella spends more time talking to Raj (Ravi Jain), Steve's Virtual Assistant based in India, than Steve himself.

That's about it for the plot, which comes to an abrupt halt in 60 minutes and is left dangling.

Bugaj, Findsen and Jain formed Why Not Theatre while students at L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, the famous Paris school of clown and movement-based theatre. As such, they are unsurprisingly more interested in how they tell this story, than in fleshing out the overly congenial characters or the action of the play.

Findsen, in particular, has a remarkable physical presence and a marvellously malleable face that he scrunches up to play the awkward Steve. His introduction to the whirlwind of international commerce is a great set piece; his briefcase gets tossed around like a hot potato and he gets whisked up onto the shoulders of Jain, who is a rotating door of investors and employees. Bugaj is a less magnetic presence, but then Stella isn't much of a character - she merely mopes about and watches too many documentaries about the melting ice caps. We never care about her overly dependent relationship with Steve.

Nicolas Billon, who is credited as co-playwright and who came in late in the show's development to shape it further, hasn't given much of a structure to these antic, amiable performances, preferring to articulate the themes and ideas of the show in a series of monologues, illustrated by Gina Scherr's projections. There is plenty of chatter about the Big Bang, the potential of a Big Crunch and a pair of Neolithic skeletons, found locked in an embrace by archeologists south of Verona, Italy, in 2007. The juxtapositions are intriguing, the lightning-fast world of business laid out next to the slow melting of the ice caps and the even slower expansion of the universe.

Elsewhere, sparks of brilliance shine through in Jain's Virtual Assistant, who enthusiastically relates the plot of a Bollywood romance and offering this optimistic view: "If it ends, it ends well. If it doesn't, it isn't over."

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Following that philosophy, It's So Close... isn't over yet. It was enjoyable in the moment, but difficult to generate much excitement about afterwards. That's not uncommon with physical theatre, though - it's the Lecoq block, if you will.

Why Not Theatre's I'm So Close ... continues at the Theatre Centre as part of the Free Fall Festival until April 3. The show then plays at the Cultch in Vancouver as part of the Tremors festival from April 6 to 10.

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