by Paul Matwychuk
A World Premiere
Presented at the Edmonton Fringe Festival
Directed by Wayne Paquette
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL – Liz Nicholls
In the world of one-man shows, of which the Fringe is a leading repository, examples abound of the confessional monologue trying ingeniously, sometimes manically, to pass itself off as a play. In this crowd, Paul Matwychuk is the odd man out: With him, the reverse is true. His solo shows are plays, slyly trying to palm themselves off as confessional monologues.
This is a perversity that leads us straight to the apparently mild-mannered protagonist, Paul by name, who populates the stage single-handedly in his work, throwing himself on our mercy since, as he tells us, he’s “not really an actor.” There’s no theatrical magic at his disposal, Paul warns us apologetically at the outset of Matwychuk’s latest, Mexican Blindness. No “fancy production,” no “ambient musical scores” or projections. No funny voices or accents to come; he’s all about telling, not showing.
The lanky, awkward, self-deprecating figure before us is just here to be himself, and tell us about his pre-nuptial, all-inclusive Mexican holiday, reluctantly undertaken to placate his fiancée and ingratiate himself with her parents — “all while wearing a bathing suit.” And then, in a surreptitious aggregation of tiny setbacks and humiliations, set in motion on location when he loses his glasses in the ocean mere moments after arrival, we find we’ve been swept somehow into the middle of a tumultuous story of violence, bad behaviour, blood, nightmare disorientation, peyote vision.
How did it happen, this wildly improbable galloping chaos? As in the case of its predecessors, that’s the cunning and the fun, in both writing and execution, of Mexican Blindness. And if Matwychuk presses his luck slightly with a scrambly, jarring bit toward the end, there’s a bona fide sense of discovery and release about being on an adventure with a guy for whom a bare foot onstage reads like full-body nudity.
THE EDMONTON SUN – Colin MacLean
It`s nice to see Paul Matwychuk back at the Fringe after his masterwork The Play I Did at Last Year`s Fringe. That was eight years ago.
For years, the local broadcaster, writer, and publisher was a regular at the event with his quirky, often whimsical monologues. You`d know him if you ever saw him – he`s 6 foot and something with a completely bald head and a hawk nose. He`s hard to ignore on stage or on the street.
This time he`s guided by the accomplished director Wayne Paquette and he`s livelier (and no less entertaining) than ever, – throwing his entire body into his tale. At one moment, even breaking into a hilarious, rubbery, loose-limbed dance that makes it look as if his entire body is out of control.
He bounds onto the stage with a big smile as if he can`t wait to tell his story. What we won`t see, he tells us is a big production with lights, projections and music. He`s not an actor, he says, so we won`t see any character changes or exotic accents.
He then launches into a tale of the ultimate Holiday from Hell at a five star, all inclusive Mexican resort. He and his fiancé are going on holiday with his prospective in-laws so they can get to know each other. They don`t seem to like him much and think that their daughter is throwing her life away on this dorky loser. And let me tell you that nothing in the coming week is going to change their opinion.
In a moment of ill considered exuberance, he throws himself into the sea – and immediately loses his glasses to the waves. He`s almost blind without them and he has no backup. He wanders around making a fool of himself.
How do you attack an all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet when you can`t see what you are putting on your plate?
He fills his horror story with a lot of detail which gives a sense of reality to the events and when he veers off into peyote fuelled fantasy, well, what the heck – he has us by then and we happily go along.
Matwychuk is a charming, ingratiating storyteller. He delights in sending up his unsuccessful attempts to navigate family relationships and to appear `cool` when he is messing everything up.
Matwychuk has a command of the language. He`s literary without ever sounding pedantic. He`s odd, funny, and unconventional. He may not have enjoyed his Mexican holiday but we sure did.
3.5 out of 5 Suns
KENNY PENNYFEATHER FREELANCE – Kevin Pennyfeather
In his first return to the Fringe in eight years, Paul Matwychuk presents an autobiographical monologue filled with absurd content that contrast with his average-everyday-guy persona in a riotous, but pensive way. Mexican Blindness is a great trip.
Matwychuk is another one of those actors who has his script learned cold; I couldn’t detect a single syllable or breath out of place in his performance. However, what Matwychuk does better than any other performer I saw at the Fringe this year, is play the “understated-role.”
He talks to his audience in the same way you’d imagine the quiet IT guy from down the hall where you work approaching an attractive coworker: he’s quiet and not overly boisterous, but whenever he utters a word, you know that he knows what he’s talking about.
It’s odd that this is the way I interpret Matwychuk’s acting in Mexican Blindness, because the the resort-vacation that he narrates about a trip with his fiancé and her family, is really quite an eventful one.
Mexican Blindness isn’t a very happy play
Sure, he let’s some of his shortcomings as a person shine through, like losing his glasses on the beach for instance, and that fits his delivery in an accurate and comedic way – but there are other times in the play when he uses the same tone of voice to talk us through near-death situations and hallucinogenic-drug trips.
I think it may be the contrast in those moments that made Mexican Blindness so great. The gnawing consideration during the show that everything Matwychuk said carries a hefty lick of truth, combined with the incredulous situations he described as if talking about how he takes his coffee kept me engaged and curious.
Mexican Blindness isn’t a happy play, despite what Matwychuk’s demeanour may try to betray, and it’s his professional dedication to purposefully narrating dark scenarios with a relaxed voice that really makes the play worth seeing.