REVIEW: How It Works

Plosive Productions investigates the power of healing through storytelling with Daniel MacIvor’s How It Works, directed in this production at The Gladstone by Stewart Matthews.

Should you see it?

In our own ways, we’re all just trying to figure out how it works.
Review for Plosive Production's Presentation of How It Works

Geneviève Sirois as Donna and Michelle LeBlanc as Christine.

How It Works begins with the premise that everybody has had something that has happened to them. Big, small, or somewhere in between, everybody has baggage and only by turning it into a story, only by giving it away, can the healing process begin. How It Works is Brooke’s story. Her something, and keeping it to herself, turned Brooke (played by Hannah Kaya) into the drug-addicted troubled teen that she is when we meet her. Her parents (David Whitely and Geneviève Sirois) are divorced and her father has just started dating a woman (Michelle LeBlanc) who may become the catalyst to helping Brooke heal.

This now, is going to turn into a most unconventional review. Though somehow, I think How It Works director, Stewart Matthews, will appreciate it because of how little it will say while still saying a lot.

How It Works is the kind of play I hate to review.

Hannah Kaya as Brooke in How It Works

Hannah Kaya as Brooke

When I sit down to some theatre, I’m not actively trying to analyze it or look for things to talk about. I’m not taking notes. Like most audiences, I’m there to lose myself in the show and enjoy it. When I write, I write for the layperson on up to the theatre elite with the sole purpose of answering, plain and simply, does the show entertain? And how well does it do it?

When a play just blows my mind, or is just not good at all, I can find a lot to say. If a play has stronger (or weaker) moments, that’s what I like to bring up. I aim to tell you the main things that you, as an audience member, can expect from a show if you were to go and see it. But when a show is just strong all around, when everything is working together and all just works, I find that I have to go back and try to dismantle the thing, often breaking out the thesaurus to find all the different ways to say things like Geneviève Sirois did a wonderful job and her character posed a nice contrast to that of Michelle Leblanc who… also did a wonderful job.

It’s a lot of post-mortem and verbal hand-waving to fill a 300-500 word review when I’d much rather not deconstruct and just keep enjoying the show as a whole.

It’s like taking apart the wizard’s wand to figure out where the magic comes from.

Michelle LeBlanc in How It Works

Ask me about the How It Works drinking game.

I could totally make up sentences to talk about the cast of How It Works, or the direction, or the design – especially the awesome floor treatment – because they’re all praiseworthy.

But when you strip away the veneer (which is oddly appropriate for How It Works), a strong show that draws you in and holds onto you for the duration doesn’t need much more to be said about it. And that’s perhaps the highest praise I can give Plosive Peep’s presentation of How It Works.

It Works.

What did you think? How did the cast and crew of How It Works do? Did it work for you? Tell me in the comments below.

How It Works runs at The Gladstone now through October 20th. More information including photos, video, and ticket info, is available in our preview article.

(NOTE: We’ve now moved the “Ottawa Rating” into the preview articles.)


Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

What people are saying:

  1. Allan Mackey says:

    The only addition I will make is to add that How It Works could come with a trigger warning.
    - (this may be considered a spoiler, so you’ve been warned)
    It doesn’t go into any kind of detail and it leaves a lot off the page, but sexual abuse is part of the subject matter of the play and so those who are sensitive to it should be aware.

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