Paul Hopkins, Jilian Fargay, Jade Hassouné
In Absentia at the Centaur Theatre
By Richard Burnett
Hopes were high for Centaur Theatre’s world premiere of In Absentia by Calgary-born Morris Panych, the celebrated playwright and director who has won two Canadian Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama.
But rest assured, Panych will not win a third for In Absentia.
It’s somewhat unfair to critique the actors considering the meandering script they had to work with.
This unwieldy and wordy two-hour and 15-minute two-act play stars terrific actor Jillian Fargey as Collette, a woman whose husband (his ghost is ably played by Paul Hopkins) has been abducted while on a business trip to Colombia. A young drifter (played by hot twinkie Jade Hassouné) drifts into Collette’s life as she tries to make sense of her loss with the help of her neighbour Bill (Carlo Mestroni) and her sister Evelyn (Susan Glover).
It’s somewhat unfair to critique the actors considering the meandering script they had to work with. But Fargey alternated between sincere and blasé, Paul Hopkins and Carlo Mestroni acquitted themselves ably, and Hassouné just had to stretch languorously in the first act and flash his six-pack and pink nipples to keep the audience happy. But by the second act even Hassouné started to wear thin.
The stand-out performance was really by Susan Glover, whose inflections, expressions and body language reminded me a whole lot of comic actor Joan Cusack. Glover did the impossible and made me care about her unlikeable character, and gave the play its only poignant moments and real laughs.
Despite Panych’s unfocused script – the first half should have been trimmed by 20 minutes, and the second half by another 10 minutes – the audience did get to see yet another gorgeous set designed by John C. Dinning (why is this man not working on Broadway?) which was effectively-lit by lighting designer Luc Prairie.
Still, no bell and whistles could save In Absentia. By the time Collette in the second act asks the drifter, “What are you doing here?”, I no longer freakin’ cared.
In Absentia continues at the Centaur Theatre (453 Rue St. François Xavier) until March 4. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Click here for more info and tickets.
As someone who just suffered a loss and as someone who is waiting for the ice to melt so he can go to the Cottage and enjoy Spring, I loved every moment of the play. Connecting with a loved one who is gone, knowing you are loved by them - - this stuff really matters.ReplyDelete
I have nothing but good things to say about the cast and performances in this play. Perhaps unfortunately, the day before seeing the show, I coincidentally listened to an episode of NPR's "This American Life" that happened to be about hostage takings. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/409/held-hostage (I believe it had been a rerun)ReplyDelete
The details surrounding the abduction in this play do not seem to reflect the reality of kidnappings for ransom in real life. The subject matter appeared to be poorly researched. Also I can not, for the life of me fathom why the freak-out towards the end of the play did not happen immediately after the reveal at the end of act one. The character lost all credibility for me the moment she suppressed reacting to that information at the time in an immediate and visceral way.