“Evythng hs bn dn” and other lies
Karen Hines’ sold-out solo show Crawlspace is part memoir, part horror story. In a dark, curly wig and sexy high heels, Karen struts confidently around the stage, looking each of the front row audience in the eye, sizing up what kind of real estate stories we have under our belts. “Bad renovation. Noisy tenants. Pests.” Finding me in front row centre –twenty six, old clothes, big glasses – she searches my face before saying firmly: “Bad landlord”. I am tempted to answer: How did you know?!
“Everyone has a real estate story”, Karen says to me over coffee in the Distillery the next day. And her own story is true, right down to the description of the little yellow house she bought in Toronto in 2006.
The antagonist of Crawlspace is a real estate agent who led Karen to believe that “evythng hs bn dn”, as the website abbreviation said; The house was supposed to be clean, safe, renovated, and financially safe as houses. Today, Karen’s performing 90 minutes of material about her poorly-built home going wrong in every way imaginable. She confesses that every night she scans her audience to see if her real estate agent will be in attendance.
The show began its life in 2015 at the now-closed Videofag in Toronto’s Kensington Market. The small, indie pop-up space was known for queer work, edgy live art and storytelling nights. Hines’ character in Crawlspace – a heightened, dramatic representation of herself – fit right in with the drag aesthetic there.
At Soulpepper, the audiences are a bit quieter, and may have a different perspective on her subject matter; Crawlspace is framed as a warning for young people too eager to get into the housing market, and it seems likely that Soulpepper audiences are more likely to already own property than the Videofag crowd. But at the end of the day, we all need a home, and we can all imagine the nightmare of having our shelter fall apart around us.