Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Desperately Seeking Something (Fringe)

by Jason Booker

Desperately Seeking Something by Nellwyn Lampert lives up to its title. Young Annie (Ewa Wolniczek) feels life lacks meaning. She turns to religion – though she debates which one – to try to find her purpose, when one morning she wakes up wanting to become a nun. After taking up residence at a United Church, her ex-boyfriend Jake (Fraser Elsdon) stops by to deliver her mail since Annie has not yet changed her emergency contact information from when they broke up. Jake picks Annie’s brain as they rehash their relationship and the death of Annie’s twin brother to figure out why she has turned to religion while Annie vaguely explains herself – not justifying herself exactly but inarticulately saying this is an option and all options must be explored.

Okay, so that’s a pretty dialogue heavy play. And this site-specific performance doesn’t make it seem any lighter. Lots of talk and not a lot of onstage action. There is movement, but there is also sitting on the floor talking or staring into books – some of which is obscured due to audience sightlines.
Now throw in the story of Persephone, Artemis and Hades (a mesmerizing Scott Law) debating the future of humanity, the loss of faith in them and their own lack of choices as they fell into their fabled destinies. Sadly, this piece of the puzzle never really fit for me, as Artemis and Persephone felt more like the devil and angel cartoon archetype, each poised on a shoulder of Annie, commenting on her thoughts and actions while trying to persuade her to live out their will.
The staging is bland, the lighting leaves much to be desired and the direction (courtesy Darwin Lyons) feels as if it dealt with the ideas and never the performances. For a bring-your-own-venue show, more engagement or interaction with the audience would have been nice. Instead these emerging performers are left holding the picnic basket, which wasn’t particularly well stocked by the director and writer.
Sidenote: for a play with a cast of five, written by a woman, featuring three actresses, it seems strange that the men are the only ones with their act together – questioning the women, having the most profound lines – while the women struggle on, confused and reaching for the future when they are already living in it. Maybe what Annie really seeks is one more draft of the script and a little more agency over her own life.

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