An alien experience support group, a diverse gathering of people looking for different things, and questioning what is believed to be true. This is the setting for Theatre BSMT’s production of Bright Lights, a dark comedy that examines our beliefs, our loyalties and our need to feel a sense of belonging.
It all starts going sideways when a new member joins in. “Things sort of shift and change because of that person,” according to Madeleine Taylor-Gregg, who plays the new member, “and new information is revealed about the people in the room.”
This support group is headed up by Ross, whose, shall we say, humanness is questioned, which leads the group to react to the accusations. According to Taylor-Gregg, “as information is revealed people start to take sides and it sort of shows the bounce back and forth of how people can sort of jump ship or get on the bandwagon depending on who else is there or what information is readily available. It’s also sort of about who their loyalties lie with first – it’s complex, I think, which is quite nice when it’s a comedy, and things aren’t so simple.”
Taylor-Gregg’s character is Zoe, the one who gets the action started in the play. “She’s sort of on her own side, at least at the beginning,” says the actor of her character. “She’s really just looking for people to connect with and someone to believe her. And I think that’s really tough in the situation that she’s in, is that, ‘Who’s going to believe someone who’s had an alien abduction experience?’ ”
Aside from her alien experience, Zoe is grounded in reality and is able to shake things up amongst the group. “I think a lot of the other characters are all very comfortable in where they’re at – they’ve got this group of people that they’ve been with for who knows how long, and Zoe comes in and I think she throws a bit of a wrench into things.”
Sienna Holden plays Laurel, one of the members of the group who is heavily invested in it. “She’s a person who found the group after she had an experience and I think is very protective of it in her own way,” explains Holden. “She’s used to being the only female, so part of her journey through the story is kind of coming to terms with another female being integrated into the group and how that makes her feel, and what challenges that brings up for her and as well as dealing with the question of, ‘Is her baby human? Is her baby an alien? Does she want her baby to be an alien?’ She’s a fun character.”
And would it be safe to say that this play uses dark comedy to address themes of alienation and persecution? “That’s an interesting way of putting it,” says Holden. “I think it really does touch on the isolation that people who feel something different or are experiencing something different can feel, and it I think it probably touches on the reasons why these support groups exists to begin with — and not just alien support groups, but support groups in general. These folks who have experienced something, they’re looking to connect, they’re looking to find common ground with other people who’ve had similar experiences, and I think that this play really touches on that connection – in the absurdity of an alien support group …”
Expect to come to the show to have a laugh, thanks to the great mix of characters in the group, with special mention going to the roles of Wayne and Dave played by Conner Christmas and John McIver. “I feel like there’s a lot of physical comedy in this show,” says Holden, “and I feel like part of the comedy comes from the entire group, and kind of the fervour that gets created over what’s happening. (Wayne and Dave) are definitely stand outs, but there’s something really funny and strange about this entire group and their kind of mob mentality.”
(Photo, from L-R: Sienna Holden, Connor Christmas, Bryson Wiese, John McIver and Madeleine Taylor-Gregg. Courtesy J Silver Photography.)
Theatre BSMT’s Bright Lights runs Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the Pumphouse Theatres.
Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring The Culture Cycle event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.