Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Karenin's Anna (Fringe)

How not to write a play.
by Jason Booker

Step 1: Select two characters who do not understand each other’s language. This could lead to interesting non-dialogue situations, however if you are a text-heavy writer, please avoid the accented misunderstandings and blind nodding that dialogue without meaning and active listening will lead to.
Step 2: Not understanding the difference between exposition, monologue and dialogue. Unfortunately, Karenin’s Anna has Anna speak at Sergei (while he doesn’t understand her) about everything under the sun. Is she exposing her state to him or saying it purely for the audience to understand, in the illusion of creating depth and/or character? Methinks the latter.

Step 3: Use a deus ex machina device. In a 45 minute play, can an audience tolerate the introduction of an offstage character’s medical emergency to facilitate a conclusion to the piece? Not so much, especially when very little has been said of the offstage character during the first half of the piece.
Step 4: Create a short show with lots of short scenes, especially set over a duration of weeks or months. How does one effectively communicate time passing using the limited resources of the Fringe can be a challenge for anyone… but especially in a two person show on a thrust-style stage. (The transitions in this production are ponderously long and rather dull.)
Great premise (a young woman marries a Russian émigré to earn him a green card) but very clumsily executed in this piece by Michael Albert Ross, directed by Luke Marty. However, kudos to the strong mostly silent acting of Daniel Pagett and the irritatingly needy flibbertigibbet of Caitlin Robson.

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