Company: Eeshka Peeshka, Winnipeg, MB
Venue: 4 - Alloway Hall (Manitoba Museum)
The play aims high, but the production’s problems diminish our emotional connection. Despite Boland’s impressive performance, we’re interested but ultimately unaffected, disappointed, and still hungry.
Watching a character's on-stage emotional disintegration is delicious. That intimate window into a stranger's unravelling moral compass is both uncomfortable and mesmerizing, a theatre-goer's guilty, vicarious pleasure.
But for it to really work, the audience has to feel totally (even unwillingly) emotionally invested. And that doesn't quite happen in this production.
What gets in the way? The script (by local playwright Sherry Bailey) is polished and ambitious. Emile and Juliette are newly retired; they move to an idyllic home in the countryside, only to find that their dream-home also comes with a rude and intrusive neighbour who not only disrupts the couple's domestic life, but unexpectedly, provokes Emile to come face-to-face with the darkest bits of his own soul.
Bailey uses this set-up to ask larger questions about morality, civilization, and the strangers who live among -and inside - us.
A play like this needs a slow, steady, relentless build of tension, and this is where the production falters. The script is flawed by irregular pacing and excessive exposition (more show, less tell!).
Bernard Boland, as Emile, is outstanding, easily the best part of the production; his performance is well-worth the price of admission. Many of the other performances, however, just aren't strong enough to be believable, never mind to build or sustain momentum. The whole play loses energy and bogs down, just when the tension should be most unbearable.
The play aims high, but the production's problems diminish our emotional connection. Despite Boland's impressive performance, we're interested in Emile's transformation, but ultimately unaffected, disappointed, and still hungry.