Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Eirlys & Eckhart

Arlin Dixon, Matthew Gorman (photo by Scott Gorman)
Boxed In
Confusion mars a potentially thrilling evening
by Stuart Munro
@Stuart MunroTO

Arlin Dixon’s debut play Eirlys & Eckhart purports to be “an eerie domestic horror in which two old friends reunite in a room governed by the rules of children’s logic to solve the mystery of their missing parents.” It’s too bad that this single phrase gives us more insight into the play than the play itself.

This is not to say that the evening is entirely unsuccessful. To be sure, the mood and tone of the space is at times frightening and off-putting, thanks in large part to Dave Plowman’s omnipresent soundscape, and I legitimately jumped in my seat on at least one occasion. But Dixon’s script never quite finds its voice and instead hovers around the idea of fear without ever knowing (or letting the audience know) what exactly it should be afraid of. The play is not atmospheric enough to rely on mood alone, and the plot is too threadbare to help move it along.

There are simply too many unanswered questions.

The result is a mildly unsettling evening about, apparently, nothing. Our two eponymous characters appear to have some sort of history, but that’s never properly expanded on. (It’s only three-quarters of the way through that we learn they’re best friends.) There have apparently been a number of deaths in both their recent pasts, but even this is uncertain. And who on earth is Violet? Eckhart’s sister? Wife? Daughter? There are simply too many unanswered questions. Where the script does shine is in the too-few stories that the two tell to each other (and occasionally the audience) which often tend to be thinly veiled metaphors for one another.

What keeps the production moving and compelling are the performances by author Dixon and Matthew Gorman as our two title characters. Gorman especially has created a fully realized Eckhart with shades of autism and other social anxieties. He helps Dixon’s script come alive in a real and palpable way. Jenn McCutchen’s set of shelves and cardboard boxes helps to create and oppressive and somewhat sterile atmosphere, while director Matt White has brought together all these elements to create the beginnings of a real on-stage thriller.

There is potential here, but too many elements of this play just haven’t been fully realized, and the evening ends up being more about style than substance. Until this is reconciled, the play will stay just as confused as its characters, and its audience.

To March 16

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.