- The Boy In The Chrysalis by Liam Monaghan – August 2018
- Directed by Heather Jarvie
Reviews for the Award-Winning The Boy In The Chrysalis by Liam Monaghan
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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
A young, exasperated elementary school teacher flops into his tiny Ottawa apartment after a particularly trying week, and launches into a monologue on his latest breakup, the drudgery of daily life, fantasies–and a heart wrenching reveal about just what made his week so difficult.
Vaughn Naylor gives a captivating performance in this 30-minute piece; Liam Monaghan’s fast-paced script is punctuated with lots of wit and charm, and Vaughn does it justice. I would say it’s reminiscent of Buddy Cole except that director Heather Jarvie rarely has Vaughn sitting still–and the content is darker than much of the tales the Kids in the Hall character wove. Other than a few small stumbles and one niggling point in the script (I had a hard time imagining a 7-year-old in Grade 2 reading Jane Austen), this short piece was engaging, funny, and poignant. A simple set and minimal projections also served this piece quite well.
Don’t go in expecting a big drag transformation (which would be near impossible in a half-hour solo play anyway), but do expect a heartfelt tale of escapism, being queer in Canada, and just how far we still have to go to make everyone feel at home. -AFL
“The Boy in the Chrysalis” by Hapax Theatre is a one-man show starring Vaughn Naylor. While its runtime is a scant 38 minutes, Vaughn captivates the audience from his awkward arrival to melancholy surrender. In between, he delivers sass, punchy commentary, and queer cultural references with panache.
The story follows an unnamed grade-school teacher who has had a terrible week. To take the edge off, he strips into something more comfortable and begins a dialogue with Darling: you. He cracks a bottle of wine and talks his way through his woes, from a less-than supportive partner, dissatisfaction with his mundane existence, and poignant nostalgia for the life he could have had—if only he’d been born somewhere as glamourous as Paris.
The Boy in the Chrysalis acknowledges the changing landscape of both Canadian culture and the social expectations of the queer people navigating it. Insights are touching and painful, questioning what we still can and can’t have because of who we love—and sometimes in spite of who we are. Occasionally lines are so complex that if you’re laughing too hard at the previous joke, you’ll miss it, but Vaughn keeps you hanging on every gossipy word.
Of course, there are darker things hiding within this chrysalis, and the play does not provide any answers—much like life. There is almost no presentation of the Drag Queen that the synopsis promises, but its absence feels intentionally conspicuous as the story unfolds.
Hapax Theatre’s The Boy in the Chrysalis will coax you out of your shell to connect with those you love, while you still can. Witty, tender, and fabulous, this one-man show takes flight.
Leanne Allen for Culture Vulture
Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Hapax Theatre’s The Boy in the Chysalis takes flight
“I feel like fucking up,” says the man on stage as he strips down to his underwear in the first four minutes. We watch him in his 400 sq foot Ottawa apartment embark on doing just that as he builds his own myth for a trauma he’s just faced. And that’s exactly the duty of myth – to bridge the gap between reality and fantasy. And what better bricklayer than Bacchus – a bottle of red – to ready the journey of the mind. (Side note: Favorite anecdote: an audience member saying “He’s gonna be drunk by the end of this!”)
“Getting off on being contrary,” he uses his real life experiences with his mother and his lover to push against to build a fortress in his mind against the real-life horror he’s just experienced as a Grade 2 teacher. We can almost see the scaffolding as he physically rebels – wrapping himself in a red satin robe he’s used for drag that is woven with Paris fantasy, putting on lipstick, imagining the Eiffel Tower so intensely that it appears as a projection on his drapes.
His absent lover David plays antagonist by proxy, blamed for trying to keep him in the world of the mundane, showing him “how ridiculous the charade” of being a drag queen was. “To fake it and never be?” he asks, “No thank you.”
Really what we’re witnessing in this 40 precious minutes is a human self-actualizing and the pain of that. He wants to be left alone in the more beautiful world he’s imagined. He wants to be born in Paris, not Medicine Hat. He wants to be in a bigger apartment, he wants to be everything he’s not.
Kudos to lighting design as it goes from Apollo yellow to blue at the inevitable but beautifully timed turning point. Apparently writer Liam Monaghan’s first play for stage, this is a perfectly plated first course. And bravo to actor Vaughn Naylor, who didn’t skip a beat – I’d be interested to see it at the end of the run to see him sink in even more.
The tragedy leaves no room for fantasy, aside from a drawing that’s been left that eerily mirrors his favorite Happy Meal toy. And that 5 x 7 sheet of bond paper with colored wax, along with the idealism of hating hypocrites, is all he’s left holding at the end of the soliloquy.