Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata—a musical created from ads on Craigslist—delivers joy, sadness, and a whole lot of creeps.
If you think you spend too much time idly browsing Craigslist to see what odd ads you come across (and hey, we’re not judging), imagine the recent life of west coasters Veda Hille and Bill Richardson, who have not only spent extensive time culling through the sprawling online classifieds network, but they have created a play by setting Craigslist ads to music.
An award-winning musical, we might add.
The embarrassment of riches Craigslist provides them is almost shamefully intimidating. And that’s ultimately where Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata veers off the rails—especially by including a few too many entries towards the end of the show that, while uniquely odd and/or touching and/or cringe-inducing, end up feeling redundant. But along the way are some highly entertaining melodic interludes. The play won the 2012 Jessie Award for Outstanding Original Script and Outstanding Musical Composition, and had a sold-out extended run at Vancouver’s 2012 PuSH International Performing Arts Festival. Now it’s coming to Toronto, thanks to Acting Up Stage Company and Factory Theatre.
With accompaniment provided by Hille on the piano and Barry Mirochnick on percussion, the four-person cast performs through a variety of musical styles, from rock to big band to Fosse-like cabaret, as they belt out songs about selling a children’s guillotine, a box full of kitten hats, or a missed connection at Burning Man.
While some excerpts are included purely for their novelty factor, some have unexpected pathos. In her Toronto debut, Bree Greig briefly slips into the awkward transition from child to adult as a 23-year-old philosophy grad selling her prized penguin collection. Similarly, “Heavy Metal Roommate” portrays a group of former (and assumedly middle-aged) rockers looking for a reliable housemate who likes to party hard, but only on the weekends. Darren A. Herbert uses his sharp performance to inject the crippling insecurity of love into a missed connection with a clown on stilts. Meanwhile, the severe-looking Selina Martin’s role as the spellchecker and grammar freak is humorous at first, but eventually signals the death of online eloquence.
Director Amiel Gladstone tries to develop some through-lines connecting the diversity of songs, styles, and wants. The show is at its best when these connections are physically made on stage (like when Dmitry Chepovetsky reemerges as the aforementioned clown on stilts), or when broader messages get through (one song compares Craigslist to the dove’s olive branch in the Noah’s Ark tale).
Do You Want What I Have Got? would really benefit from more of these connections, which would help explore the feelings of isolation so common in such a virtually interconnected world. Without them, the play can feel like just another unneeded reminder that the world is full of weirdos who just need someone to lie in a bathtub full of pasta for five minutes. (We know.) Just like its inspiration, Do You Want What I Have Got? is sometimes a mindless way to pass the time, and sometimes provides insights into the ways we search for meaning in each other online.