Tuesday, 12 October 2010

b current's RADIANCE Does Not Shine

I wish that I could say that b current’s production of RADIANCE (directed by the award-winning, ahdri zhina mandiela), was as stellar success, especially since the company is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Unfortunately, none of the performances in the play live up the interesting story that Australian playwright, Louis Nowra, has penned.

Set in Queensland, Australia, the story is about three half-sisters who reunite for the funeral of their mother, their only connection. b current’s rAizn Ensemble cast includes, Maxine Marcellin as the opera diva, Cressy, Amanda Nicholls (as the embittered Nurse, May), and Meghan Swaby as the promiscuous Nona, who shares their mother’s love of sex and revolving-door boyfriends. The sisters are strangers to one another, and their reminiscences of the past paint a story of a neglectful mother (fighting her own demons), whose choices have had a painful impact on her daughters.

I understand that the rAizn Ensemble is a professional development program for emerging artists, so I was fully prepared for performances by budding actors (everyone has to start somewhere); what I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of energy displayed the actors. I could see the colour in Nowra’s words, and the dynamism with which he imbues the three characters, but all of this is on the page and nowhere to bee seen on the stage. Marcellin’s lacklustre performance is at odds with her opera-singer character, Cressy. When she refers to her roles and touring, the words are not delivered with any shred of credibility. Nicholls tries in her role as May, the sister who found her mother dead in her chair, and with a bit more rehearsal she could have been more convincing in the part. Meghan Swaby’s portrayal of the flighty Nona brings some humour to the piece, but hers is a one-note performance without any depth. As for the Australian idoms, they did not roll trippingly off anyone’s tongue, halting the flow of dialogue and the already slow pacing of the play.

The highlight of my evening was the work done by the crew: set design by Jung-Hye Kim, lighting by CJ Astronomo and sound by Rehaset Yohanes. The raked wooden floor of the house, the flashes of lightning that portend a storm, and the echo of off-stage dialogue all serve to set a wonderful stage for Nowra’s work. With actors that didn’t give me anything to invest in emotionally, I could only make it to the intermission of the two-hour play.

RADIANCE by Louis Nowra
Presented by b current (http://www.bcurrent.ca/default.asp)
Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela
October 12 - 15
Theatre Direct's Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street (1 block south of St. Clair Avenue West)
Reserve or Buy Tickets: only $10
416.533.1500

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