The Hunger Room is a play full of surprises

Scott Button’s new thriller is set in a suburban high school rife with self-loathing

(Photo courtesy of Staircase Theatre)

By: Tessa Perkins

Two male high school teachers share a whiskey and discuss the challenges of working with young girls who sometimes look older than they are. One seems to be hinting that he struggles to resist acting on his sexual thoughts while the other becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Their “chain of trust” is soon stretched thin as a shocking confession emerges.

     Mr. Richards (Evan Frayne) and Mr. Milette (Joey Lespérance) attempt to solve the mystery of the cryptic notes being left in some of the female students’ lockers and figure out what the “hunger room” is. The mysterious stalker has made the notes look like they were written in blood and has included a variety of violent threats. In the opening scene, Anna (Raylene Harewood) tells Caitlin (Camille Legg) about the note she received, and their chemistry along with the razor-sharp dialogue, draws us into their story right away.    

     Scott Button’s writing is unexpected, quick-witted, and full of surprise humour that catches you off guard. And the delivery of those lines was impeccable, especially by Lespérance, an endearing art teacher who says things like “breath is the activism of the unconscious.”

     Introverted Tyler and bad-girl Caitlin have recently started dating and their relationship is full of teenage awkwardness. They fall into easy banter as Caitlin explains to him that The Fault in Our Stars is not actually a sad movie and proceeds to give a re-retelling where everything goes wrong, the protagonist doesn’t have a boyfriend, her parents are bankrupt, and she dies at the end.  

     The musical transitions that move us from one side of the stage to the other are also strong. The seats are arranged in two sets of rows facing each other across a narrow aisle, and at each end of that is a space for a set where the majority of the action takes place. This results in a lot of seat shifting and neck craning in order to see what’s happening, but other than that the staging works well to quickly move us from one location to another without having to wait for a set change.   

     K.Flay’s “Blood in the Cut” was perhaps chosen to open the show and re-start the action after intermission as it relates to Tyler cutting himself and to the show’s many violent moments. On a more metaphorical level, it represents the crises of each character and the abundance of self-loathing that permeates the story.

     After intermission, I was so caught up in how this play tumbled to a conclusion that I didn’t even think to take notes. It was enthralling. There’s nothing like a good, unpredictable thriller, and this play had me guessing until the end.