Heartspace Theatre Company @ Nexus Cabaret
7:00pm, Wed 23 Feb 2011
The premise of Brief Encounters is certainly enticing – six ten-minute plays, each of which aim to create an impact, but not outstay their welcome. And so I found myself lured to Nexus (in the company of a nearly full house) – but, upon looking at the programme, one problem is apparent straight away:
There’s only five plays listed.
And, as soon as the lights drop and the show begins, another problem raises its ugly head:
None of the plays are really much good.
Christopher Durang’s Mrs Sorken leads off with a meandering and unconvincing introduction to the concept of “theatre” – and while Laura Zanini’s recurring role carries a convincing primness, the content didn’t conjure any high hopes for the rest of the production. At least the second play, Alex Broun’s Exiting, was at least a touch amusing and carried a twist in the tail, though the direction was loose and sloppy – the characters must have been traveling in the longest elevator known to man, such were their verbal wanderings.
Dr Fritz or: The Forces of Light (by David Ives) was more amusing still, with Laura Arjona playing the surreal doctor with tongue planted firmly in cheek; unfortunately, her voice wasn’t strong enough to imbue the character with any depth or power, and the rapidfire back-and-forth dialogue often felt contrived and flat. Jason Katims’ The Man Who Couldn’t Dance was the most identifiable piece for me: I could see so much of myself in the titular Man that it was scary. But some of the dialogue between the Man and his ex was so spectacularly cringe-worthy that it almost felt offensive, undoing any goodwill it managed to conjure beforehand. The final piece – Arabian Nights – shared the same playwright (David Ives) as the earlier Dr Fritz, and suffered the same problems: fast-paced he-said-she-said fell flat, and the quirky-for-the-sake-of-quirky idioms were not able to redeem it.
Repeated appearances by Mrs Sorken don’t help proceedings at all: her additional interludes of comic relief whilst the stage was being reset only served to remind you accumulating averageness of the production. Sadly, the promise of Brief Encounters was completely let down by most aspects of the execution, with only a few positive aspects lingering in the memory – far outweighed by the volume of disappointment.