Joe Szekeres, Chief Toronto Critic
Do I believe that extra-terrestrial beings can exist? Do any of us believe they might exist?
About fifteen minutes into his riveting monologue performance, Damien Atkins asks us by a show of hands how many of us believe in this possibility and how many of us are still not convinced. I did raise my hand in support of other worldly life could possibly exist. Notice I’m not saying ‘does exist’ because I’m not certain of that fact.
One thing of which I am certain – Damien Atkins is a raconteur extraordinaire par excellence. I was hooked on every single word of ‘We Are Not Alone’ which he tells us at the top of the show is 99% true.
This was my first visit to Crow’s Theatre, and I do want to return here for future performances. The Scotiabank studio space is an intimate black box venue which worked well for performances of this nature. Upon entrance, a lone and (what I would call) old-fashioned microphone stands brightly lit by one spotlight above the playing space. What appears to be either mist, fog or smoke emanates from the lone spotlight which spills over into the darkness of the rest of the venue.
It wasn’t a sold-out performance as there were several seats available, but there was a buzz of anticipation in the auditorium possibly from the subject material for the evening. I have had the opportunity to see Mr. Atkins perform at Soulpepper and Stratford and knew he was an excellent actor, and I could sense excitement growing as the clock moved towards the half hour.
When the performance began, Mr. Atkins strode out on stage with confidence and charisma. He wanted to make quick eye contact with each of us and let us know that he could see us just as much as we could see him. For me, I got the impression he was most eager to tell us a story of what happened to him in his quest of discovering that we are truly not alone on this planet.
And once he launched into his tale, I was captivated by this man’s performance. I had to close my notebook and put it away about ten minutes in as I did not want to miss hearing or seeing anything.
Part mystery, part thriller, part science fiction (with a dash of humour thrown in every now and then), ‘We Are Not Alone’ is a journey with Mr. Atkins as he begins preparation to write a play about the possibility of other worldly visitors. Throughout the performance Atkins not only tells us about some of the odd characters whom he meets, but believably becomes these characters who are sometimes a hoot to watch or strange oddballs from whom we would immediately run in the opposite direction. Kimberley Purtell’s lighting design sharply focused my attention consistently on the action. Thomas Ryder Payne’s sound design nicely underscored and highlighted the intensity and sometimes the mystery and puzzlement of what we were watching and hearing.
A highly professional presentation and most enjoyable evening.
Final comments: I didn’t care whether I was being led down the ‘cliched‘ garden path in the veracity of searching and trying to understand whether there are other worldly visitors or not. Damien Atkins is one helluva exceptional performer and masterful story teller, and that alone is worth the price of admission. I heartily recommend you see this performance if you can.
‘We Are Not alone’ continues to January 26, 2019 at Crow’s Theatre in Scotiabank Community Studio, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, telephone (647) 341-7390 or visit www.crowstheatre.com.
Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission.
Co-Directors: Chris Abraham & Christian Barry; Associate Director: Andrew Kushnir; Design Consultant: Julie Fox; Lighting Designer: Kimberley Purtell; Sound Design: Thomas Ryder Payne in association with Dylan Green, Peter Balov and Christian Barry; Stage Manager: Kate Porter; Production Manager: Daniel Oulton; Apprentice Production Manager: Jenna Harris.