Critipeg: Space Girl
★★★1/2 out of 5
Runs at Prairie Theatre Exchange until April 2
Frances Koncan’s Space Girl is simultaneously out of this world and heavily grounded in Manitoba.
In its 105-minute run time, the Prairie Theatre Exchange production (PTE) crosses gravitational zones, livestreams a birthday party on the moon and features a surprise guest appearance from Ben Affleck.
The play follows 21-year-old Lyra (Brynn Godenir) – better known by her alias, @spacegirl – a social-media influencer based not in LA, nor in NYC, but on the moon. While there are only three actors (Godenir, Justin Otto and Daina Leitold), the production boasts seven characters.
One day, while Lyra preps her next string of content for her loyal followers, an impending meteor shower forces the social-media star to take refuge on Earth – specifically, in St. Andrews, Man. Landing on the tall-grass prairie, she encounters what one might call a simp (played by Otto), who guides her on an arduous journey to charge her cellphone.
In a cozy auditorium nestled on the third floor of Portage Place, Space Girl makes exceptional use of space. In the first act, the stage is fitted with three catwalk-style extensions, allowing the characters to build new worlds.
It’s a play about outer space and taking up space, be it online or offline.
With their pulse on the currents of social media, Koncan reveals the foolishness and fragility of influencer culture. The play pokes fun at the unnamed billionaires, baby influencers and garden-variety elites who are shielded from the bleak realities of our time.
Peppered with plenty of Zoomer humour, Space Girl speaks across generations. Those young enough to have no recollection of 9/11 will vibe with the familiarity of chronically online catchphrases. Those old enough to have gone to the theatrical premiere of Good Will Hunting will appreciate the precision of Otto’s Ben Affleck impression.
Otto’s five-character performance was so seamless that, at times, I questioned whether a different actor had stepped on stage. In a fated meet in the Portage underground, Lyra crosses paths with Otto’s fifth persona: @Maxabillion, aka the Vanguard. A crowd-favourite character in a black turtleneck and fitted blue jeans, he hits his Puff Bar like how a French newwave star would smoke a cigarette, voicing his disillusionment with social-media fame.
Between the moon and Earth, Space Girl occasionally goes off the tracks. At the same time, there’s joy to be found in its randomness. Koncan brings the characters of our Instagram explore pages to life while simultaneously critiquing the absurdity of influencer culture.
Space Girl imagines a universe where the wonders of the moon are no match for the enigma that is Portage and Main. You’ll have to see it to understand why.
Tickets to Space Girl can be purchased online via bit.ly/3FCoUQO.
Published in Volume 77, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 23, 2023)