January 16, 2020

SCENE | For Rent – 'House and Home' x Firehall Arts Centre

Andrew Wheeler Jillian Fargey Jenn Griffin | 'House and Home' | Vancouver Downtown Eastside | Firehall Arts Centre
Andrew Wheeler and Jillian Fargey / Photo credit | Matt Reznek
Railtown—Playwright Jenn Griffin's new stageplay House and Home, loosely inspired by her own experiences as a homeowner, explicitly addresses our much obsessed about Vancouver housing crisis from the very heightened perspectives of its struggling characters. Running now after premiering at the Firehall Arts Centre in East Vancouver, the twisted comedy directed by Artistic Producer Donna Spencer bravely ventures into the troubled waters of affordability and livability from all sides.

A biting comic take on our current local real estate market where property values are high, rental vacancies are low, and owning your own home is more unaffordable than ever for individuals, House and Home grounds itself in the conflicting realities of very flawed people trying to their best often at the expense of others.

Our main characters Hilary (Jillian Fargey, who only ever appears in a bathrobe), a social worker on stress leave, and Henry (Andrew Wheeler), a Butoh dancer turned underemployed lawyer, are actually lucky, house rich but cash poor homeowners who managed to escape bad roommates and bought into the real estate market before it skyrocketed.

The pair find themselves in a bind as they reluctantly abandon their progressive values by plunging into the murky world of short-term rentals only to find more struggles by trying to get out of debt. There's mostly a joy to how the actors relate their frustrating circumstances despite how serious their issues are.

Donna Spencer Jenn Griffin | 'House and Home' | Vancouver Downtown Eastside | Firehall Arts Centre
Illustration | Karin Konoval
Griffin and Spencer take an efficient path to layering their characters with multiple, often conflicting ideals they must sacrifice in the face of unappealing economic realities. Everyone tries to do their best even though many characters clearly act of pure self-interest and are very aware of their problematic actions.

Both maintaining homeownership and finding or renting a suitable home that's remotely liveable are given fair weight in their struggles within a hyper-capitalist society. Griffin deftly juxtaposes these competing realities for some serious, often dark humour about mental health and systematic prejudice.

Mostly set as a series of two-person conversations and occasional farcical setups, House and Home is a crowd-pleasing show that carefully walks the line of its subject matter concerning appropriation and privilege. It takes a respectful yet biting approach to triggering material and never refrains from difficult discussions about class and race. It's impressive how well-researched and thought out its complicated premise is expressed.

House and Home was originally an Arts Club Silver Anniversary Commission and runs now until January 25th on stage at the Firehall Arts Centre as part of their 37th season.

More | YVArcade / Courier / Straight / Vancouver Sun

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