Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When it Rains


When It Rains
By Anthony Black
Produced by the 2b theatre company
At LaMaMA

The 2b theatre company is from Nova Scotia. They appeared at LaMaMa this month, with a play by its artistic co-director Anthony Black called When It Rains.

The concept of When it Rains is promising. A series of misfortunes befall Alan, our hero - monetary, medical, marital, et al. By contrast, his brother-in-law Louis surrenders to misery when his wife tosses him out (which seems to me to be a considerable misfortune, but the script gives him no sympathy). In the play’s thematic climax, Alan accuses Louis of “choosing misery”.

The production’s defining strength is its lighting design, which is masterful and striking. What’s more, three of the four performers give us subtle acting, emotionally grounded. Marc Bendavid sings Ne Me Quitte Pas with delicious self-pity on the part of the character and wit on the part of the actor.

Unfortunately, the story advances itself by unsubstantiated action. Mr. Black (who also directs and plays Alan) fails to follow through on a few counts. Alan worries about getting fired, but we never find out if he does. And his horrific surgery is cancelled.

Worse, there’s a pivotal moment that’s enormously contrived. Louis and Alan’s wife throw themselves at each other in a passionate embrace (Louis happens to nude, by an artificial plot twist). Alan, of course, shows up at just the wrong time. It’s another dolor for the poor guy, but it means nothing. Even Alan admits that, in time. The scene only serves the mechanics of the script, not truth.

As for Louis, his wife (Alan’s sister) abuses him with no motivation whatsoever. She gets no support from the script. It gives them a history, but neglects to include anything that might explain the acrimony. Her anger is arbitrary, serving – again – the mechanics, not  truth.

Moreover, the show sets up its own rules, and then breaks them. There’s that clever passage when Louis sings Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. There are cool comments on it about it projected behind him. Fine. But later we hear a song over the sound system, divorced from real stage presence. Inconsistency in idiom.

Likewise, there’s a neat moment with a wine bottle. Alan and his wife are sitting with the bottle between them. But it’s really the shadow of a bottle projected on the upstage wall. The actor reaches out and holds the bottle, pours, returns it. Then, in the show’s best moment, the “bottle” explodes. Unfortunately, the director never follows through with this technique; nothing like that ever happens again. Worse, there’s a parallel moment later that cries out for the same treatment but is denied: Alan hands Louis a flask, and he uses a prop, a real flask, instead giving us of that clever shadow effect.

The show is subject to the most damning criticism: The audience laughs at lines they’re clearly meant to take seriously. Black needs to reimagine this play.

- Steve Capra
January, 2013