Imagine standing on the ledge of a building about to take your final step, only to be interrupted by a couple fighting on the floor below you, ready to kill one another. This is the starting point for Morris Panych’s 7 Stories, which opened on March 3 at Hart House Theatre.
Panych’s black comedy can be difficult to execute, but Hart House’s rendition readily takes on the challenge of bridging reality and surrealism.
7 Stories is the story of a nameless man contemplating suicide, while each interaction with his neighbours reveals more of their own bizarre personal realities. These characters range from a gay former actor named Marshall attempting to con a rich woman into marriage, to Rachel, a rigid Christian trying to show people on the fifth and sixth floors the path to God.
Brian Haight shines as the relatable ‘Man,’ letting heartbreaking confusion appear subtly underneath his determined and shy character. Haight provides a fundamental contrast to his over-the-top neighbours, especially in a notable anecdote regarding car parking.
Haight’s greatest moments come in his interactions with Leonard, played by Kevin Kashani. Kashani’s portrayal of the paranoid psychiatrist is comedic gold — his perfectly timed quips and rants are some of the production’s most memorable moments.
7 Stories’ setting consists of a brick building with seven windows, perhaps to complement the play’s absurd characters. Each window serves as a small stage for each character to have their moment in the spotlight.
However, the set’s mechanics presented some problems, including sticky windows that forced the actors to constantly be climbing in and out, a recurring interruption. Nicole Hrgetic must be commended for her improvised incorporation of the set malfunction into her character’s ramblings about how much she hates her apartment.
Watching the play’s events unfold comes with a sense of unpredictability, constantly asking what surreal elements the characters will introduce next. The audience is constantly kept on its toes, questioning what is real while the play gradually blurs the line between fact and fiction. This execution of 7 Stories’ absurdist concept was well-acted, well-directed, and above all, hilarious. However, be warned: in order to fully appreciate this production, you’ll need to appreciate black comedy.