Fringe review: The 3AM Subtext

The 3AM Subtext
Directed by Olivia Latta and Matthew Stepanic; Glass Buffalo Theatre; Telus Phone Museum; until Sat., Aug. 24.
Our Score
3.5

By Jake Pesaruk

The 3AM Subtext is the kind of show that plays emotional tug-of-war with its audience, resulting in a deeply rewarding experience, but not one without any flaws.

The heart-wrenching tale revolving around a back and forth between two men post hook-up manages not only to earn its audience’s engagement, but also emotional investment—and that’s only in the first act. 

The two men in this story, who are only credited as ‘One’ and ‘Two’ (Austin White and Landon Nesbitt respectively) drive the entire saga of personal excavation, as these two characters play along the natural flirtations of two separate parties after a night together. Yet they are equally emotionally in flux when this one-night stand becomes a rapid interrogation of belief, personal stories, and personal demons.

Which brings us to the primary highs and lows of this story: the powerhouse script behind it, and it’s wobbly pacing. 

Every subtle detail of character interaction sticks the landing in its narrative—the teasing, the barbs thrown, the standoffishness and honest portrayal of two strangers post-fuck make the narrative deeply personal and relatable simultaneously, yet it’s the delivery that hinders what would’ve been a flawless story of pillow talk with purpose. 

In no way are both of the leads unable to convey the tone and message of the story, it’s just that the rapid clip of the narrative results in equally rapid delivery. Examples vary from crucial humour being sputtered out with no room to let the jokes breathe as the actors rush through the next line of dialogue, or arguments between characters that contain major reveals being hurried along as the next bombshell awaits in the following monologue, with this type of delivery dominating most of the performance. 

The 3AM Subtext sheds light on the nature of strangers and how trust can be earned and thrown away in an evening, and despite some stumbles manages to be an enthralling story worth a peek.

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