Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Tachycardia (Fringe)

An Attack of Mediocrity 
by Lisa McKeown

Tachycardia,  written and directed by Rebecca Gismondi, is about connections: between lovers, and between mind and body. Two lovers confess their feelings for each other only to discover that the effects are not what they had anticipated. Or rather, the woman - El - confesses her love for the man and is greeted with a cool response. "I am confused," he says. "I don't know what I want." 

That phrase might also be true of the play itself. What ensues is a rather confusing melodrama of El's heart literally being ripped form her chest (only to bounce along the stage, which had rather unintended comical consequences) to mourning and melancholia. When her love returns, asking for her back, she finally concedes only to have him rip her heart out again in what seems like a confusing and unmotivated cruelty on his part. Unmotivated because neither character was given a context, we were not given the world of the characters - something that would have made them particular people that we might care about. Instead, they seemed like cardboard cut-outs of two-dimensional stand-ins for 'men' and 'women' which only had the effect of seeming arrogant and overly generalizing rather than universal and profound. Meanwhile a mysterious Lady in Red facilitates the whole charade, though it's not clear who she is - a relationship conscience? Society's insane demands of the many conflicting things women have to be? Some sort of repressed BDSM desire? I hoped it might become clear throughout the course of the show, but that hope was sadly frustrated. 

One actor stood out amidst the mediocrity: Nadine Bhabha managed to make something actually rather authentic out of her role. As much as the play grated on me, her acting brought life into what was, on the page anyway, a rather underdeveloped character. In terms of the overall structure, I could imagine a version of this kind of play that might be described as something like a dramatization of a narrative poem. Unfortunately, the prose here, while attempting to be poetic and profound, fell sadly short of the mark. Instead, the play managed to take clichés (heartbreak, heart wrenching, having one's heart torn out, feeling broken, torn apart) and reinforced them instead of doing something interesting with them - surely one of the jobs of great poetry. Rather, the show seemed bent on attempting to espouse deep truths about love, and ended up just sounding a bit like a high school student trying to be deep. A better approach, as my high school writing teacher used to say, is to show, don't tell. Show us why these people are doing the things they are doing, the effects it has on them. Telling us results in a flat, dimensionless story. It was the theatrical equivalent of a Coldplay song: something which sounds good superficially until you listen carefully, and then collapses under the weight of thoughtful reflection. 

July 2 - 13

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