Rodeo Reviews: Heap & Pebble

A ridiculous premise can go a long way, but what separates novelty from something truly moving is when that premise helps get at a more difficult truth.

6.0: How Heap and Pebble Took on the World and Won starts from a place that could just as easily be a sketch comedy premise — two ice dancers staging a comeback performance in a world with no ice. But despite the over-the-top accents, the silly costumes and the undeniable physical comedy that comes from skating on a wooden stage, Heap and Pebble has genuine depth.

The real struggle behind Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare’s script is this: what do you do when the art form you love is no longer practical, or even possible? Heap Kruziak (Jesse Gervais) and Pebble Adverati (Amber Borotsik) have dedicated their lives to ice dancing. It’s what they know and what they love, and they’re the best in the world. But how long can they cling to that when there’s no more ice?

Again, fully granted, it’s silly. Ice dancing itself is ridiculous at the best of times, and while the choreography shows respect for the form — at least according to the friend I watched it with, who it turns out is a closeted pairs figure skating fanatic, to my surprise — the play isn’t above taking a few pokes at its inspiration. But while Gervais and Borotsik can be impressively funny, they’re also fully committed to their performances, and it’s rare to find a moment in the play where they aren’t delivering on multiple emotional levels. They mug for the imaginary cameras, putting on a brave face and delivering zingers, but that’s always undercut with the fear and the frustration that comes from being artists with uncertain futures. Combined with the physical comedy and their overall athleticism, it’s really quite impressive.

Heap and Pebble isn’t a long play; starting just after noon at the Lunchbox Theatre, you can easily fit it into a slightly extended lunch break. If you do, you won’t regret it. It’s funny, touching and sad, making the most of a minimal set, and even incorporates some wonderful audience participation, which may be the first time I’ve ever said that about audience participation. In short, it’s highly recommended.

Heap and Pebble runs at Lunchbox Theatre until January 25 as part of the High Performance Rodeo.

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