SummerWorks 2018 Pick: Winners and Losers

11 Aug

Winners and Losers

Sometimes the simplest of concepts and presentations can also be the most impactful and effective. Such is the case with Chromatic Theatre’s presentation of Winners and Losers – a work originally devised by Marcus Yousseff and James Long, and adapted for this incarnation by Valerie Planche, Makambe K. Simamba, and director Jenna Rodgers.

In Winners and Losers, there is no set, no complex blocking, no elaborate lighting, no evocative sounds cues – just two performers (Planche and Simamba) at a table who toss out whatever subject – whether it be person, place, concept, or thing – that seemingly happens to come to mind and then debate if it’s a “Winner” or a “Loser”. If you think that alone can’t sustain a 75 minute show, you’d be sorely mistaken. The back and forth opens up the opportunity for creative and organic discourse on any and all topics at the forefront of today’s society; race, feminism, politics, history, celebrity culture – the list goes on. The fact that each subject has to be argued from both sides – no matter how obvious the answer might seem – means that Winners and Losers is a challenging work in the literal sense of the term and is effectively structurally incapable of preaching to the choir, which is a criticism often applied to theatre (and often with some degree of merit). There are certain motifs which are revisited, each time with more emotional depth. It is these heightened moments that takes what is already a dense and intriguing show, and elevates it to something even more special.

Because of its minimalist nature, much of Winners and Losers’ success rests on the shoulders of Planche and Simamba. The two are disparate in terms of age, race, and cultural upbringing, but they share a remarkable chemistry and kinship which gives any elements of antagonism a playful edge. They are both sharp performers who know how to manipulate the audience and each other, and who are able to blend the impromptu and scripted elements of the show seamlessly.

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