Slings and Arrows

No one ever thanks the stage manager. If you have ever worked in theatre, you know that when the stage manager gives you a cue backstage, such as “five minutes,” you respond, “thank you five minutes,” or at least “thank you.”It’s not only polite but it’s practical, as it lets the stage manager know that he/she has been heard, and that everyone is on the same page. Never, ever is this done on TV or in movies. It drives me nuts. Slings and Arrows, a now-cancelled Canadian dramedy seems like a show that would get this detail right, but maybe they do things differently in the land of Rod Stewart and Robin Sparkles. The show is pretty authentic in other ways.

The pilot plot is a tale of two theatres. One is desperately poor, with plumbing issues and unpaid electric bills. It’s actually called Theatre Sans Argent. The other one is a big ol’ commercial theatre complete with a corporate sponsor. Both are getting ready to open works by Shakespeare. It’s not immediately clear what the relationship between the two is, but we get to that.

Geoffrey (Paul Gross), the cockeyed optimist who runs the broke company fancies himself an artiste. He’s full of bombast about the ability of theatre to rise above mundane problems like money. “A theatre is an empty space,” he declares, making a Peter Brook reference only theatre geeks would get. He backs up his claims, though, with a realistic onstage tempest created using only sound and lights on a bare stage.

At the helm of the fancy theatre, New Burbage Theatre Festival, is Oliver (Stephen Ouimette), also a pompous airbag but meaner. He abuses his backstage staff as well as his actors. He is directing a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream while simultaneously navigating administrative politics. The company sponsoring his season has a new CEO, and though she’s as chipper as a protocol droid, we’re not sure if she’s a friend of the arts or The Man.

The show goes on for the latter. At the former, the landlord tries to evict the company, so the artistic director chains himself to the building in protest making the evening news. Oliver catches the coverage—in the middle of his opening—and the connection begins to become clear.

Geoffrey and Oliver are a classic example of Foe Yays. (For a full explanation of HoYays, FoeYays and their relatives check out TV Tropes.) They’re a bit like Dr. X and Magneto. Peter Parker and Harry Osborn. Guys who used be bros and now they hate each to the point of obsession. There is a lot of back story going on and a lot of set-up for future relationships. The women in these men’s lives are introduced, as are a few other company members.

It’s not easy to predict where the season is going to go, because it’s not easy to even label this show. It’s kinda funny, but not in a ROTFL way. And it’s dramatic, but without being too heavy. And it’s about a subject that is anything but mainstream. So it’s not an easy thing to sum up. That should be a good thing, but in this case, the pilot is an amorphous blob. Maybe multiple viewings will reveal new layers. It ran for 3 years so maybe they get it in Canada