Canon in D Minor
nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
August 10, 2012
In Canon in D Minor “After her best friend takes her own life in their final year of school, Beth searches for a way to forgive herself for what she might have done to prevent it.” Playwright Jessica Liadsky gives us an earnest, tender, poetry like play where the character replays in her head the days leading up to her friend’s demise, and scrutinizes the many everyday details while she works through the guilt of not having been somehow able to spot the signs of the event to come.
Three energetic young actors (Suzy Jane Hunt, Eryn Murman and Brittney Parker) alternate playing the role of Beth as well as multiple other characters. This is sometimes a clear choice and at other times feels unnecessarily confusing, such as when one person starts a sentence as one character and another finishes it as the same character. What the purpose is of this I am not sure, but it seems the intent of the entire play might be cleaner with two performers instead of three. We flashback to events leading up to the suicide, including typical everyday angst about adolescence and school classes mixed in with the inevitable break up of a teen romance that unfortunately prompts the tragedy. While you feel Beth’s pain of lamenting that she might have done something to help prevent her friend’s death, an hour of angst is a long time and the whole piece feels unrelentingly maudlin. A bright spot is the musical duet (performed smoothly by violinists Sarah Hund and Elena Moon Park that Beth and her departed friend worked on together, thus giving the play its title. Although composer Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor is a much loved piece, I find it strange that nowhere in the play or program (perhaps I missed it?) is the composer’s name mentioned. This would be a grave (no pun) oversight indeed.
Director Rachel Slaven does nice work molding the material and she has given us some inventive staging on the small sparse stage. All of the three actors do a game job of portraying teens, though only Ms. Hunt rises above the ordinary, with multiple characters showing depth and range. The lighting design by Amanda Clegg Lyon and sound design by David Corsello are simple but solid, and kudos for the cute school uniforms, softly covered flats and cleverly diverse use of music stands go to set/costume designer Maggie Gardner.