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How To Disappear Completely: Guest review by Sean Cummings

Itai Erdal tells How To Disappear Completely

How To Disappear Completely
Starring Itai Erdal
Written by Itai Erdal in collaboration with James Long, Anita Rochon & Emelia Symington Fedy
Directed by James Long
At the Wosk 2nd Stage, JCCGV
February 17 - 27, 2011

Guest review by Sean Cummings

Vancover, BC:

To say How To Disappear Completely is theatre is correct.  It is definitely theatrical.  But the narrator is not a character in a play. Rather he spends his time telling the audience an intensely personal story about his journey back home to his native Israel to be with his mother for the final months of her life. 

What could have been a self-centered spiral into the depths of grief turned out to be a well executed story whose artistic achievement is to seemingly place the audience smack dab in the middle of the narrator's experience. 

About ten years earlier, playwright Itai Erdal received a phone call informing him that his mother had terminal cancer.  He proceeded to travel home from Vancouver.  He started to film a documentary of this time there and much of this show is the presentation of the footage he took.  The images of the clearly much younger Erdal on screen behind him help to transport us to the time and place ten years earlier.  He never once asks us to feel his loss but shows us instead.  Which is the best part of this show.

There is a definite purposeful lack of acting on the part of Erdal.  He even states that he will just talk and tell his story because that is what he is good at.  Indeed he is.  And not just aurally, but Erdal engages the use of his primary tools of artistic expression.  He is after all an accomplished lighting design.  He not just uses lighting as a tool but rather makes the process of lighting part of his narrative by discussing thoughts on the process of lighting for the stage.  In one case, he demonstrates how you can increase the beauty of a subject by dimming the intensity of the light being used to illuminate it.  And then proceeds to discuss his filming challenges which are part of his story of mounting the show you are watching.  It's all very circular and it works well in keeping us grounded because it keeps him focused and, more importantly, true.

By the end of the show I was devastated, and my elderly mother whom I had brought was enthralled by the show.  Having just lost her best friend of forty years, two weeks before, my Mum talked about the show for days afterward and I am convinced this experience played a significant role in her recovery from grief.  That is when I realized that Erdal had accomplished with this show what theatre creators hope to do.  Use art to provide a means by which we can process our  most profound thoughts and feelings. 

This is a show inspired by love, fueled by love, and produced by a creative team clearly possessing the depth of talent to know how to show just enough to ignite our own sense of loss.  The experience felt so intensely personal that the racket of people in the next room at the Jewish Community Centre felt like an insult to the person on stage and I wanted to go give them a piece of my mind.  But that was when I knew Erdal had me.