Review: Chaos of Vernon God Little bigger than life

By Jeremy Jagodzinski

EDMONTON — If you’re in the mood for a black comedy that has everything from mass murder to amputee pornography, then you’re in luck.

Erik Reuter in one of his two roles as Mr. Keeter where he plays guitar and takes requests from the audience prior to the opening scene of Vernon Gog Little: a play presented by the Grant MacEwan University's theater arts department from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 in the theater lab at Grant MacEwan's Centre for the Arts and Communications. The production during the evening of Dec. 7, 2011; Grant MacEwan west, Edmonton Alta. Photographed by Jeremy Jagodzinski.

Erik Reuter plays guitar in his role as Mr. Keeter in the MacEwan production of Vernon God Little at the Centre for the Arts and Communications in west Edmonton. Photograph by Jeremy Jagodzinski

Grant MacEwan University’s theatre arts program presents Vernon God Little, an outrageous satire about American culture based on a novel by DBC Pierre.

Running from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 in the Theatre Lab at MacEwan’s west end campus, Vernon God Little centres on a teenage boy named Vernon Little whose best friend commits suicide after going on a school shooting spree.

Vernon finds himself falsely accused of being an accomplice to the crime. With his life turned upside down, he goes on the run to evade capture, all the while proclaiming his innocence to anyone who will listen.

The play presents an absurd portrayal of American materialism. As the story unfolds, characters initially motivated by a sense of collective justice soon become fixated on selfishly using Vernon’s misfortunes for their own benefit.

Adding insult to injury, Vernon is powerless to defend himself against unfounded TV reports about his mental state and sexual appetites, which only adds to his seemingly hopeless situation.

For lead actor Stewart Bartlett, the play is an expose of American greed.

“I think it takes a big hit at Americans and the desire for fame and money and fortune and the idea that people will just toss everything else aside to just get what they want,” says Bartlett, cast in the role of Vernon Little. “It’s sort of a hit on capitalism as well, instead of collective interests.”

Directed by program chair Jim Guedo, the performance represents the combined efforts of both production and acting students. Twenty-six actors representing 45 individual characters provided an ambitious spectacle full of song and dance that kept the audience’s attention from beginning to end.

Although some spectators cheered wildly at the end of the show, others left feeling unsure of what they had just witnessed. Despite its solid storyline and competent presentation, the overlapping dialogue of dozens of characters often created confusing messages, leaving some audience members lost.

A poster of Grant MacEwan University's Theater Arts departments rendition of Vernon God Little being performed in the theater lab at Grant MacEwan University's Centre for the Arts and Communications between Dec. 2 to Dec. 8. Snapshot taken outside the theater lab on Dec. 7, 2011 at Grant MacEwan, Edmonton, Alta. Photographed by Jeremy Jagodzinski.

A poster of Vernon God Little, which runs Dec. 2 to 10 at MacEwan's Centre for the Arts and Communications in Edmonton, Alta. Photograph by Jeremy Jagodzinski

“It’s just all over the place and you’re trying to get from one place to another very, very quickly in your head and so it’s a lot to take in,” says stage manager Allison Klause.

“I find it really interesting talking to people afterwards because some people just really have a hard time following it, and some people just love the dynamic energy of it. I love how dynamic and all over the place and eccentric and chaotic it is because that’s what Vernon God Little is.”

From “Jerry Springer” to “Toddlers in Tiaras,” every message embedded in the set design is meant to speak to some aspect of contemporary society.

“I think it’s kind of saying that our society is so obsessed with the media and reality TV, being noticed and being famous,” says Klause. “People lose sight of what’s supposed to happen; what things are true and not true.”

Shows run nightly until Sunday. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Tix on the Square or at MacEwan’s Center for the Arts and Communications located at 10045 156 St.

The price of admission is $9 for students and seniors, or $11 for adults. But if purchased in advance, you’ll save yourself two bucks per ticket.

Auditions for the company’s third show, Merrily We Roll Along, are already underway. It is scheduled to run from Feb. 10 to 18.