A wildly fresh take on a familiar genre can be a venture fraught with problems, and Green Eggs & Ham's production The Bridge at The Bakehouse Studio sadly manages to snag quite a few. The two writer-players (Nick Rinke and Caitlin Docking) struggle to marry the wholly different appeals of simple shadow-puppetry and post-apocalyptic drama.
The story follows two Canadian survivors and their beleaguered journey to San Francisco after a non-descript cataclysm has taken out everyone and everything save for a torch, some canned peaches, a pair of suspiciously nice sleeping bags and backpacks, and a mp3 player with somehow only Scott McKenzie's "Are You Going to San Francisco?" on it.
The pair's voice work is strong, save for Rinke's questionable Christopher Walken impression, and the rudimentary (appropriate given what two end-of-the-world survivors could scavenge) props lend some scope to the adventures of their imaginary alter egos. The notion to add some silly humour to what can be an overly serious genre is a good decision, but the asides became more tiresomely asinine as the play progressed, and showed little development on their theme of questioning sanity in an insane setting.
When it does finally appear that the story will further explore the crushing madness of despair, or maybe the resilience of hope, the tone is inconsistent to the point of being jarring. There's very little room, between the unimaginative but diverting 90s pop culture bedtime stories, for any kind of exploratory dialogue that would better hold the narrative together – an effect only accentuated by the duality of the 'real/imagined' settings. The titular totem of the bridge goes some way towards remedying this, but it primarily ends up feeling like an actual pole with some disparate ideas clumsily pinned to it.
There is some emotional closure around the darker climax as the canucks fight over their hopeless pilgrimage and, for some reason, the loss of "Are You Going to San Francisco". It's one of the strongest parts of the play as they realise the play-acting and dream of San Francisco was perhaps what was holding them back from the brink of insanity. That it is their familial love for each other that keeps them going. This heartfelt moment then has its legs suddenly cut off with an unexpectedly bleak ending.
The Bridge is narratively kind of a mess. What was a brave idea is inconsistently executed and frequently abrupt in the young theatre company's hands. With some exploration of the duality of sanity, and any kind of meaningful context to explain the disturbing end, the performance might have been a successful mix-up of the two styles.