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Ingrid Hansen (left) Rod Peter Jr. (right) as Kitt & Jane. Photo: Jam Hamidi

Theatre Review: Kitt & Jane at undercurrents—until 02.15.20

By Brian Carroll on February 15, 2020

Fans of SNAFU Dance Theatre, rejoice! If you loved Little Orange Man, Kitt & Jane (K&J) is the worthy sequel. If you loved Interstellar Elder, K&J is the prequel. If you’ve seen and loved K&J before at the Fringe, SNAFU has tightened up the plot, updated the script to include more current events (Elon Musk, SpaceX, Tik Tok, Snapchat, consent training), and fleshed out Jane’s character. SNAFU has invested in higher production values and extended the script beyond 60 minutes. There’s even foreshadowing of Interstellar Elder.

Ingrid Hansen of SNAFU has a devoted following here in Ottawa. So a remount of K&J was a safe bet for undercurrents festival director Patrick Gauthier. Opening night was well attended.

However, if you’ve seen one of the plays in the trilogy and it left you cold, K&J is not about to change your mind. SNAFU has not tried to water down K&J to appeal to a broader audience.

But what if you’ve never seen any of these three plays? Although undercurrents is a juried festival, festival director Patrick Gauthier doesn’t play it safe. He’s chosen some plays that have a track record, but he’s certainly willing to take some risks. He expects you to do the same.

Have you ever thought: “What if the environmental movement had a sense of humour?” One answer would be Professor Katherine Hayhoe’s gently tongue-in-cheek Youtube video series Global Weirding. Another answer is SNAFU’s Kitt & Jane.

Grade-eight loner and nerd Kitt has volunteered to do a school assembly presentation for the first annual Wildlife Diversity Appreciation Day. She has two recruits to help her. One is her Uncle Roy who used to do audio-visual design for Cirque du Soleil. Unbeknownst to her teachers, Kitt has blackmailed her uncle because she knows “why my uncle had to leave Cirque du Soleil.”

Kitt’s other recruit is another loner nerd, Luke, whose school nickname is Jane. Thrown together on a school field trip, Kitt is the only girl who has ever paid any attention to Jane. (She calls him her Jane Goodall.) Jane agrees to help Kitt because… well, because it’s amazing what lengths teenage boys will go to for teenage girls.

But Kitt and Jane have other plans. They hijack the approved presentation and put their middle school in lockdown. Kitt has bribed the teachers with new school supplies to gather them in the staff lunchroom, where Kitt and Jane have locked them in.

With Uncle Roy’s help (Kitt’s blackmail must be really juicy), they’ve booby trapped the assembly hall so the RCMP can’t break in without warning. They proceed with a presentation to the assembled students (the audience) on the impending ecological apocalypse and recruit a few volunteers from the assembly for their observed survival skills. (They treat the six volunteers gently and return them to their seats in a short time.) These volunteers are to form the core of a vast nerd army to lead humanity out of the coming environmental disaster.

What follows is middle school nerd style projection slides, YouTube style choreography, and Cirque du Soleil production values.

Kitt is a force of nature whose understanding of the world is unfiltered by parental or grandparental guidance. Her beloved grandfather has died and her parents are too busy with their careers. Jane gets ostracized for his nickname and his nerdish ways. More realistic than Kitt, he’s attracted to her and suffers through her enthusiasms to be with her.

Did I mention the suicide pact and the live streaming video to Facebook?

Often laugh out loud funny, combining dance, live music, giant shadow puppetry and live video wizardry, K&J also has touching moments where these two middle-schoolers reveal depths of feeling that they would rather we not see. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but you won’t know unless you try.

Kitt & Jane by SNAFU is playing at the undercurrents Festival at Arts Court Theatre on February 15th at 1PM and 9PM. Single tickets are Pay-What-You-Can-Afford, $5, $20, $50 or $75, no questions asked. The performances runs for approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.