The joy of Paranoia

Deadline approaches yet the page is blank. I fear my brain has gone blank too. What if I don’t finish the article? Stay at my desk, stay, no, okay, get a banana and some peanut butter. Yup, that will make the juices flow. But what if my brain is permanently blank?


It creeps everywhere, haunting us with "what ifs?" What if my brain stops working? What if those cracks in the sidewalk are cursed? What if I die tomorrow?

"What if they think that we’re just these two girls with silly fears?" ask the Wind-Up Dames, Brieanna Moench and Renee Amber, eyes wide open, fearful, excited. "How will they react? Will they laugh? What if we are really one person, with alter egos, and everyone has just been humouring us all this time?"

The two University of Calgary graduates sit across from me in the Pumphouse Theatre lobby, exhausted, happy, scared and, dare I say, delirious. They have been this way ever since they started working together in 2001. They were feeding each other’s paranoia before they even thought about Paranoia.

"Fear is our inspiration together," remarks Amber.

Moench nods.

"Why?" I ask.

"There is this thing, this force between us," Moench replies thoughtfully.

"Yes, but we can’t really talk about the form, we can’t describe it," Amber adds slowly.

The two agree it’s something of a tornado surrounding them, pulling them into crazy adventures, yet they operate together in a strange zen, dead in the eye of the storm.

Paranoia is a show based on their fears, our fears, fears that are oftentimes unfounded and largely irrational. But fears are powerful obsessions in our society, and they have the force to kill. The fear of the thing can kill.

"Fear is the greatest illusion," says Lao Tzu, through Amber. "You can know that, but it doesn’t mean you still don’t experience that fear."

Moench and Amber are conscious of their obsession, but they plunge straight ahead. Why?

As their director, Abby Cutham puts it, "the best way to deal with fear is to look it straight in the eye." Not only do they look fear straight in the eye, but they laugh at it, and at themselves.

"We are ridiculous," admits Moench.

"The things we do when we’re scared, it’s ridiculous," agrees Amber.

Paranoia takes the two characters to the extremes of their paranoia, playing them like puppets to their own fate. But does fate control them?

"If fate were in control, then why would we worry?" asks Amber.

"Do we know if fate is in control?" I ask.

"Who knows?" asks Amber.

"We don’t want to answer our questions, we just live through them," replies Moench.

We can’t answer the "what if?" so what’s left to do? For these girls, they live to be afraid of their work, their play, the million things that ask "what if?"

"It’s almost like you want to vomit sometimes. The fear is so sickening," admits Amber.

"But then you get through it, and it’s… euphoria," finishes Moench.

Fear can kill, but having it, laughing at it, and conquering it makes life just so much more alive. Paranoia is the result of two girls’ addiction to fear, and the pulsating energy between them conquering those fears, and creating new ones.

What if you laugh at their ridiculousness and at your own paranoia? What if you see you’re not the only one that’s crazy? What if you come see the show?

Paranoia plays at the Pumphouse Theatres from Oct. 22-Nov. 1.

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