Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Ancient History (Fringe)

All Ives, All The Time
by joel fishbone

A sharply written one-act by one of America’s great modern playwrights, Ancient History is eternally unassuming, pretending to be a simple romantic comedy as it delves into such thorny issues as bigotry and anti-Semitism. Written by David Ives, the play was written in 1989 but is only now getting its Canadian premiere thanks to Aware! Productions who have brought it to the Toronto Fringe with a decent, if at times underwhelming, production.

Ruth (Tiana Leonty) and Jack (Zack Amzallag) are two lovers who are full of playful banter, goofy pet names and inside jokes that only they think are funny. They also never fight, or at least that’s their own personal claim; this being the theatre, they end up tearing into each other before the night is through. This is minimalist theatre that shines a big bright spotlight on both the actors and the text. In this case, the text wins out. Leonty and Amzallag are smart actors and enjoy the playful side of the couple but they sometimes fail to go for the jugular in accordance with the demands of the script. 

Ives has once again entered the public consciousness thanks to the success of his play Venus in Fur, which is tearing up regional theatres across the continent and was recently made into a major film. He’s so popular that another company is staging his collection of one acts All in the Timing at the Toronto Fringe, allowing audiences to enjoy a unique David Ives double bill (or septuplet bill, since All in the Timing features six short plays). 

It also allows audiences to see two uses of the same convention. In both Ancient History and Sure Thing, the play that opens All in the Timing, an audio cue rewinds the action and allows the characters to replay certain moments. This is used to great effect in Sure Thing but feels slightly out of place in Ancient History; the conceit disappears halfway through the play, a sure sign that it was never really needed to begin with.

July 2 - 13

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