Kate Thomas and Sam Lewis, real-life Barbie and Ken dolls and Hollywood’s brightest young stars, are missing. Kate and Sam have vanished from the set of their new movie, part of a mega-successful fantasies series, rather like Twilight. Legions of distraught fans light up social media with hysterical speculation. Where are the adored stars, lovers on and off-screen? And does their absence have everything to do with their recent and very public split-up? As online gossip expands and contracts like solar flares, the plot thickens.
In Joel Kim Booster‘s play, Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up, the young stars are drugged and wake up in a disheveled apartment, kidnapped by Bill, a former security guard, an amiable man who survives on disability. But why has Bill kidnapped Kate and Sam? For ransom money? Oh, if only.
Millions of people now lead vicarious lives following every moment of a celebrity’s life, every bit of it posted on Twitter, Facebook, and fan websites. Hordes of people imagine they’re intimates with the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. After all, the fans make celebrities, and the fans must surely own them. Kate and Sam soon discover the incredible idea that drives their capture and incarceration.
AJ Vaage is Sam, a young actor all too aware of the trap of stardom and the risk of being a celebrity. Karen Knox is Kate, his co-star, a hot Hollywood babe with serious attitude. Throughout the play, Knox delivers a fascinating and controlled tour-de-force. She’s gives us a Kate, youthful and indulged—a self-destructive Hollywood bitch whose behavior fills tabloids. When she gives Ken or Bill an incredulous stare, you know she’s thinking, “I’m on the wrong planet and I need a martini.”
While Kate and Sam sit, bound with duct tape and rope, bickering over how to deal with their kidnapper, Bill makes every attempt to please his Hollywood “guests”, serving them cheesy snacks and Kool-Aid. Tim Walker is a revelation as Bill, shifting back and forth between an amiable goof and a seriously unbalanced and misguided criminal. Sam tries everything he can to curry favor with Bill, hoping for release. But soon we find that their kidnapping is part of a larger plan.
The “plan” is related to Bill’s friend, Becky Park, who runs the biggest Kate & Sam fan website on the Net. Becky’s a precocious, not to mention rambunctious, 16 year old, played with delicious animation by Rebecca Liddiard. When she meets Kate and Sam in the flesh, she nearly levitates with excitement. Becky’s no ordinary fan, and we begin to see the full scope of how volatile this kidnapping has become.
It’s unnecessary to reveal more of the plot. But it’s a ride, let me tell you, one you won’t forget. What I will say is that you’ll careen emotionally between laughter and the rush of anxiety as the action heats up.
This production is of a very high standard. As well, the directing and acting is concise, making each word shine. A comedy like Kate and Sam can easily slide off the rails, becoming way too shrill and played for laughs. But director Jill Harper knows exactly what she’s doing and presents the material straight-up, which only amplifies the humour and lunacy of the kidnappers’ twisted logic. It also magnifies the pathos, so that when Bill explains how he was injured a second time, doing security work, or when Kate talks about how she landed the film role of a lifetime, you find yourself either frightened or near tears.
The ensemble acting is so daring, we’re watching what goes on behind the human face, the dismay, the hurt, the deep insecurities of both the adored and the adoring. Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up is a play that fingers a very raw nerve. We’ve evolved a culture of belittlement, where we’re judged, evaluated, bullied, and sneered at by known or anonymous persons online. For many, this turns the average day into running a gauntlet of abuse. Joel Kim Booster’s dark comedy zones in on this societal phenomenon, and brings it into full view.
If you’d like to see a show you’ll enjoy and think about, go see Kate & Sam Are Not Breaking Up. It’s true entertainment. The real thing.
Special thanks to Artistic Directors Jill Harper and Sarah Illiatovich-Goldman for staging such a daring venture. As well, praise goes to General Manager Christine Groom at Cue6 for her work, and set design. Everyone associated with this work should be very proud, including Tamara Protic, Stage Manager; Simon Rossiter, Lighting Design; Tim Lindsay, Sound Design, and Jenny So, Props & Costumes.
Cue6 Theatre Company
76 Stafford Street
Toronto, Ontario M6J 2S1