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The Mirror Test reflects themes of body image and self-worth

Vancouver psychotherapist-turned-playwright sees parallels between acting and counselling
Kevin Kokoska’s one-man play The Mirror Test runs at the Orpheum Annex Dec. 9 and 10. Photo Dan Toulgoet

When Kevin Kokoska looks in the mirror, it becomes an exercise in existentialism.

With a background spanning counselling, psychotherapy and theatre, Kokoska is challenging the notions of self and self-worth in his one-man comedic production, The Mirror Test.

Running Dec. 9 and 10 at the Orpheum Annex, The Mirror Test follows the lives of two men on either side of the 49th parallel: one character, which is loosely based on Kokoska, is a lean, fit counsellor named Calvin who’s about to travel to his first gig as a licensed therapist in the U.S.

The other character, Gus, is U.S.-based, suffers from a binge-eating disorder, and will eventually be counselled by his Canadian counterpart to help him fight his obesity.

Both characters are obsessed with what they see in the mirror: the American loathes his body image, while the Canadian struggles with perfection and identity each time he looks at himself.

A dichotomy unfolds when the two meet and that theme runs throughout the play: Gus can’t understand why Calvin — someone who’s seemingly so physically fit — could suffer from body-image issues.

“We look at ourselves all the time and we’re almost obsessed with doing so,” Kokoska said. “But it’s a harder to road to travel when you take an honest look at yourself.” 

Kokoska took a circuitous route to acting, and the seed was planted three years ago while he was studying counselling at UBC. He and his classmates were constantly tasked with role-playing scenarios as part of their studies, and that’s where the creative spark was lit. Kokoska took acting classes on the side and found synergies in the marriage of his professional and artistic pursuits.

“In my experience, actors are doing a lot of the same things therapists are doing except they don’t have the safety net of a counsellor’s chair underneath them,” he said.  

In writing and prepping the production, Kokoska found himself emotionally straying off kilter. He got so worked up in trying to live and understand the characters that he fell into a bout of depression himself.

“Through this process, I’ve inadvertently had little glimpses of it but I had it for a very short period of time,” he said. “Luckily, I have a good self-care program and network around me. But it showed me how this stuff can creep up on you. Sometimes you don’t know where your emotional boundaries are until you actually bump into them.” 

The Mirror Test runs Friday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m., and twice on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and are available at the door, or online at