By Lindsay Lea Swanson
Some stories are linear. Chronological. Others, are not. If told well, it shouldn’t matter. And in some cases, stories told without chronology can be more interesting than they would otherwise be. This is the case of 52 PICK-UP, the story of one relationship between two people, as told according to which of the 52 cards is picked up next.
52 PICK-UP is a performance with an alternating cast. This review covers only the performance of James Graham and Alexander Plouffe. Three other couples complete the company, performing the same concept – but a different story, characters, and perspectives with each performance.
The concept and set are simple – two people, two decks of cards, and just a few multi-faceted props. Written on each of the 52 cards is a simple phrase or single word. Our couple begins the evolution of the story by each tossing a deck into the air. The story unfolds as the couple takes turns choosing a card – randomly, as often the result of tossing 52 of anything into the air – and performing a vignette of their story as it relates to that word or phrase. For each of the 52 cards.
Some vignettes are longer than others, and for this reason you may become worried after the first 3 or 4 that you did not bring any water or snacks to sustain you for 5 hours. However, the short ones make up for the longer ones and the performance runs a comfortable 80 min.
To watch a story in this fashion is enjoyable and interesting; to perform a story in such a way is surely challenging. Graham and Plouffe are presumably following a script for each vignette, but combined with the random selection of each card, their performance seems almost improvisational – in a good way. Their performance is seamless and consistent – and with each vignette they are able to relocate themselves to the time and place of that moment within the couple’s story.
There is no dramatic climax of this story. If it were told chronologically, it would likely be uninteresting. This is not necessarily a criticism, though; as it was told, the story didn’t need a dramatic climax to make it ‘good’. The 52 scenes served to fill in the pieces of this couple’s short story together, and give the audience a glimpse into the small moments that made up this couple’s romance.
52 PICK-UP may be one single production, but it is really a unique theatre experience with as many performances as there are couples – and no two shows for each couple will be the same. CHECK IT!