Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Blood Relations

L-R Courtney Shields, Mercedes de la Zerda (photo by Tim Matheson)
An intriguing tale of an accused killer, Lizzie Borden
UBC production falls short of their usual standards

by Chris Lane

As the last play of the season for Theatre at UBC, Blood Relations tells the tale of Lizzie Borden, who was accused and acquitted for the murder of her father and stepmother in 1892. Blood Relations starts off with Lizzie Borden speaking with her companion, actress Nance O’Neil, ten years after Lizzie’s acquittal. The pair were rumoured to be lovers, an angle that is evident in this play. The subject of the murder comes up, as does the ever-present question: did she do it? Lizzie has never told the actress or even her sister the truth, so she decides to play a game. In the game, the actress portrays Lizzie in a re-enactment of the events leading up to the murders. Lizzie was from a wealthy family, but felt out of place and had always resented her stepmother’s presence and apparent dislike of Lizzie.

That being said, a couple of the young actors have a hard time portraying men much older than they are.

The play moves in and out of this re-enactment and present-day conversations with Lizzie, the actress and Lizzie’s sister. As the actress is portraying Lizzie in the re-enactments, we end up with two different UBC actors portraying Lizzie Borden in this play.  Both Courtney Shields and Mercedes de la Zerda deliver strong performances as present and past Lizzie, but unfortunately, their depictions are quite different.

Lizzie had long felt ostracized for being different, and not a typical young woman. Shields captures this very well, as she is both enigmatic and hard-edged. It makes sense that Lizzie would have hardened with time, living in a community that sees her as a killer despite the acquittal, but de la Zerda’s Lizzie still doesn’t have quite enough gravity and distinction.

The rest of the cast was solid, without any particular standout performances. That being said, a couple of the young actors have a hard time portraying men much older than they are.

There are some substantial technical issues with the play; hopefully some of these will improve through the three-week run, but some won’t. They chose to use a projection above the stage, as so many plays these days do, but it does not add much value to the production, and is occasionally frivolous and distracting. Moreover, the lighting designer was trying to do more than was necessary, and it doesn’t always work well.

Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock’s Blood Relations is filled with intrigue, and gets into the mind of a fascinating character, whether or not she really killed her father and stepmother. The very capable students at UBC carry the play nicely, but do not live up to the usually high standards of Theatre at UBC.

Blood Relations runs until April 6 at the Frederic Wood Theatre at UBC. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

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