House and Home tackles the housing crisis with humour

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House and Home | Firehall Arts Centre | January 11 – 25, 2020

What is a home worth? In this new play by Vancouver playwright Jenn Griffin, a boomer couple struggles to manage their debt and turns to short term rentals to try to make ends meet. They grapple with the impact they have on their tenants and their neighbourhood while questioning their life choices.

 

“The middle of the afternoon, the planet is melting” is projected on a screen above the stage before the lights come up and we see Hilary (Jillian Fargey) sitting on her porch in a robe. She’s on stress leave from work and not coping well. As she says, “stress leave is a pit stop on the way to being fired.” Her husband Henry (Andrew Wheeler) returns from his butoh/ballet/hip hop fusion class and they lament their financial struggles.

Their downstairs tenants, Wren (Kimberly Ho) and her girlfriend Marika (Darian Roussy), complain of rats and threaten to move out. Hilary decides that might not be the worst thing after all — they could raise the rent before a new tenant moves in, or put their place on Airbnb.

Sam Bob as The Pest Maven who comes to live trap the rats adds a special brand of corny humour in the midst of housing dilemmas and existential breakdowns. He pops in to break the tension by saying “sorry, overheard…” and adding his own unhelpful opinions or advice.

Marika is stereotypically “woke” as she tells Hilary that she can’t use the word “refuge” to describe the rats living in the laundry room as that is offensive to refugees. The two don’t see eye to eye on many issues including feminism and whether Marika in fact lives there or is just visiting.

As Hilary and Henry are tempted into the Airbnb market and Marika grapples with her privilege, the cost of housing in Vancouver continues to rise. We are told the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment is $2,743.50.

Fargey and Wheeler share an amusing scene as they sleep in their car and drown their sorrows while discussing everything from the communist manifesto to why they never had children. The conversation becomes more and more ridiculous as they drink, and their performances match their inebriated devolution very well.

Sebastien Archibald as eccentric Airbnb guest Auxl is another source of humour as he rents their new backyard yurt and seems to have no regard for other people’s property.

House poor and miserable, Hilary and Henry have to decide whether keeping their house is worth sleeping in their car while ungrateful guests rent their house for hundreds of dollars per night. A prescient commentary on the housing situation in Vancouver, Griffin’s play is well-written, tongue-in-cheek, and timely.

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