My Aim Is True - Missed the Mark
My Aim Is True is loosely inspired by the Elvis Costello song Alison. You see, the main character is named Alison, purposefully so by her nihilistic mother, Olivia. The similarities with the song begin and end there. Yes, the characters sing Alison, using various verses in between scenes as sort of buffers to relate to the song, except the actions in between don't meet up with the events in the song.
Alison is a powerful song for two reasons: the quality of the story telling and Elvis Costello. It's not one of those tunes that's covered much, because it's pretty hard to beat Costello's throaty, heart wrenching version, and honestly, why would you want to? I love the song (especially since an angsty goth-boy introduced it when I was a teen in an effort to make me think he really felt my pain). But the thing is that the story is being told by Costello as he's older: he has hindsight, and we know the relationship doesn't work out as soon as he breaks into the chorus. It's powerful because he's looking back on how things were, and he knows as a man now that his unrequited love for a damaged girl is what it is. Playwright Meghan Bell has put her characters in the thick of it all, during their youth, and we're watching them during the pain, but there's no benefit of hindsight, or older age.
We follow Alison (Erika Babins) as she takes care of her mother during the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of University. Or what would be the beginning if she were going- she's taking a gap year because she found out her mother, Olivia (Nancy Von Euw), has terminal cancer. Olivia refuses treatment, continues to smoke, insults Alison, and mocks her sweet puppy dog boyfriend Jack (Alexander Nicoll) with the crass nickname 'Jackhammer'. This is pretty much the extent of what happens, and if you've ever watched someone die from cancer it can be a bit difficult to swallow Olivia's behavior. She's relentlessly selfish, and while Von Euw does her best to deliver a shot of warmth into her heart, it's hard to find sympathy. Nicoll carries the majority of the emotional weight, and it's easier to bond with him as an audience member because he's so likeable. The rest of the actors are young and fresh out of school, and a little jittery, but they serve the subject matter with respect, even if it may be out of their range.
This is billed as a musical drama, not a straight forward musical, because the songs are often performed to the audience in a sort of flash-forward way. The one musical number, a catchy little fantasy sequence, is funny and well choreographed, but seems out of place. The original songs, with music by Victoria's indie-darling Chris Ho, are flat out catchy, memorable and good. In “Your Buoy” you can hear the Costello-inspiration in the instrumentals, a classy little touch. Strong costume design by Jessica Wong gives context to the character's personalities, and shows growth as they move forward in life.
I think this is the kind of play you have to be a certain age and in a certain place to get anything out of. The high school to early University crowd may find they relate to it, but for anyone older it can be frustrating. Alison and Jack find themselves in over their heads, and don't know how to ask for help. It's hard to watch them make the kinds of mistakes we all make, without seeing the benefits of personal growth. Bell could take a cue from Costello and add a little hindsight if she chooses to continue work-shopping this.