The Take Away

  • Strong design and direction

  • Engaging performances, with some ups and downs

  • Empty script without much context

  • A heavy reliance on film references that doesn’t translate to the stage

 

In My Pockets

This is the first show I saw with Inis Nua! I didn’t know anyone in the show, and was totally unfamiliar with their work.

 

The Design

The triumph of the set design were the taxidermied animals around the room which ranged from forest birds to an upright bear! Though I felt that these pieces were perhaps underutilized in the performance, having these dead animals watch the play with me was a bizarre but not unwelcome experience.

The show, staged in the round, featured a minimalist set where black boxes could be transformed into different playing spaces, which was versatile and effective.

Chris Haig designed a stage floor with small tiles that reminded me absurdly of bathroom tiles – they came together to form a picture of a small off-white path or river, which confused me. I suppose it could be a reference to a scene that comes at the very end of the play in a hotel bathroom, but this overt signaling was unclear until much later.

Zachary McKenna designed the sound, which, paired with lighting by Amanda Jensen, stood out as the strongest design element in the play. Sound helped us move from one fluid setting to another, and had a distinct character of its own. The costumes were not as versatile as the sound and the set, and contributed less to the actors ability to transform into the numerous characters they played.

 

Performances

 

Seth Reichgott (Jacub and others) delivered a very strong performance, and he had the most to do – performing as both main characters’ fathers with wildly different characterizations and internal struggles, as well as a number of other characters, both young and old.

Francesca Piccioni also held her own in her two main roles – Ash, the young romantic lead, and Valentyn’s mother.  I found myself more drawn to Joseph Teti (Valentyn) in the moments when he performed as supplementary characters, and relied more on physical characterization to convey the new role.

Direction

Tom Reing’s steady hand in this production was noticed and appreciated. Theater in the round is always such a tricky puzzle for directors, and with Reing’s staging, I never felt like I was cheated out of face time with the actors. Reing’s direction showed excellent handling of a difficult script. 

The Script

Written by Alan Harris in 2016, Love, Lies and Taxidermy relies on references to movies and the film world to create a sense of character. Maybe a recognizable three act structure grafted onto the stage  is bound to fall flat, or maybe that’s any rom-com. In any case, this constant head tick to movies made it impossible for me to get comfortable or grounded in the show’s world. Rather, I was left craving a more complete picture of this Welsh town, Merthyr Tydfill. 

I wished the script offered more context for Wales itself. For a play that claims to be so deeply entrenched in the Welsh experience, it imported most of it’s signposts from American movies. Perhaps this is to appeal to a larger audience, but it would be preferable to be immersed in a new culture. I don’t come to theater to feel at home, I come to the theater to see shared humanity, or to feel connected to a story that I don’t already know.

Accountability

Just like with any commercial romance, there were micro moments that deeply aggravated my feminist sensibilities, which makes it almost impossible for me to enjoy this kind of story.

Although the stakes came from Ash’s insistence on helping her father make money whatever way she could. When she is presented with an opportunity to make some cash -by appearing in a soft-core porn movie, her lover Valentyn is aghast and Ash herself is deeply anxious about it, changing her mind several times over during the course of the play. It was frustrating that Valentyn never engaged Ash in a conversation about the prospect. Instead,  “Don’t do the porn” was his common refrain every time he greeted her or said goodbye. It’s just as well, the play doesn’t want us to think very hard about this plot, or about the implications, just like it doesn’t want us to think a lot about the implications of Valentyn’s father stalking his mother across the world for the past 17 years.

However, the play did provide windows into the romantic lives of  middle aged characters, which was a treat because middle age + love is not something we often see in a romance. It’s what made Piccioni’s portrayal of Valentyn’s mother, Victoria, so awkward. Especially because of the age-appropriate casting against Seth Reichgott, I wondered why there wasn’t a fourth actor for Victoria’s role.

Overall, this is a script that isn’t totally interested in thinking a lot about the conversations it triggered.

 

 

 

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