TRU Actors Workshop Theatre explores Dimly Perceived Threats to the System

Everyday life for an average family goes side-splittingly awry within the domestic comedy

The production, produced socially distanced, was able to connect to very real and relatable domestic struggles. (Submitted)

Dimly Perceived Threats to the System offers an intrusive glimpse into the private lives and minds of an all too familiar three-piece family who many may recognize or even empathize with. 

TRU Actors Workshop Theatre presented Dimly Perceived Threats to the System by John Klein March 1-15. A video version of the production, directed by TRU professor Robin Nichol and co-directed by senior theatre student Jeffrey Daniels, was made available for rent virtually via Vimeo and was the third play presented within TRU Actors Workshop Theatre’s 2020/2021 season. 

Wife and mother Marlys Hauser, played by Elizabeth Nygren, is a professional consultant who specializes in coping strategies but has trouble coping herself. Soon, the audience realizes that Marlys has been worn thin by her job and her angsty 13-year-old daughter Christine, played by Alexa Rood, and her rather unaffectionate husband Josh, played by Caleb Oman. Marlys’s mental health understandably suffers. 

Throughout the production, Marlys and Josh navigate parenting and marriage and struggle to maintain a stable facade. Their daughter Christine seems to take advantage and lashes out at her parents whenever possible. Marlys, who is hungry for attention, flirts with Christine’s school counsellor while Josh pursues an affair with his young and seductive producer. 

Oddly, the entire cast begins to kind of glitch. Each character experiences what looks and feels like hallucinations as the family barrels towards disaster. At some points, it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not. It is as if their shared anxieties have become a reality and are often played out in a panic-inducing and horrific fashion.

Because of COVID-19, the actors and actresses could not touch and had to stay six feet apart. The family dynamic within the production was very much tailored to such regulations. It is doubtful touch could have added anything valuable within each scene as the audience could have possibly viewed affection as ingenuine. Christine’s character might have even displayed disgust if forced to hug or hold the hand of her parents.  

The virtual aspect also allowed for the directors to express affection digitally in rather creative ways. The directors used digital overlays of sorts within scenes where the script implied sex or seduction. The directors used the same digital overlays to represent the documentary Josh had been working on as well. The use of these overlays added a lot and aided in the audience’s understanding of specific themes. 

The actors involved in the production were exceptional. Not a single misstep occurred, and the cast remained in perfect character for the entirety of the show. Playing characters who seem to represent multiple personalities and a kind of duality could not have been easy. The set and costume design also added flawlessly to the production. No addition was questionable. Each and every aspect made sense. The set’s simplicity allowed the dynamic characters to shine within each scene.