nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
July 8, 2010
The Awakening, written by Yakup Almelek and adapted by Annie Ward, depicts a young girl's struggle to accept her father's death following a boating accident. The protagonist is Ayla Emir, played by the capable Gabriela Marcus, and through the play we gain insight into her guilt and low self-esteem following the loss of her father. Ayla journeys through relationships and eventually finds herself and the freedom that comes from acceptance.
This play, despite its good intentions, fails to deliver the important message of self-discovery. Many of the characters are portrayed as mere symbols as opposed to having any real depth, thus making them not believable. Perhaps, a revision of the script might include further character development and the creation of more three-dimensionality. While the play does have great comic moments, I found myself laughing for the wrong reasons, which took me out of the world of the play. The mother, Zohra Emir, played by Donna Stearns, and the maid, played by Jo Anne Sellers, seem to have been transplanted from an episode of Will and Grace. While these actors are talented, their performances are lacking substance, thus making them seem artificial. Similarly, Ayla's cousin Perihan, played by Rachel Loebs, comes off as a representation of a valley girl, instead of actually being one.
Director Annie Ward does not help matters with her frequent set changes. The numerous sets make it hard to follow the action of the play. I think that the actors struggled with this as much as the audience did. Along with the set disruptions, the lighting seemed heavy-handed as there was too much going on all the time, making the lights a hindrance rather than a tool used to enhance our experience. The intensity, combined with the many different cues, made it hard to enter into the play. The momentum was lost by the rapid changes, which detracts from the potency of the piece. Perhaps, less would have been more here.
The most troubling aspect of this production is the script. The actors struggle to flesh out underdeveloped characters and surface-based scenes. This production tries valiantly to serve the vacant writing. Overall, I felt that this was an okay production. of a flawed script.
However, there are some bright spots that deserve mentioning. Clinton Schreck, who plays Ayla's first suitor, Namik K., offers up a fine performance and brings honesty and sincerity to an underwritten role. Marcus and Schreck have great chemistry, thereby making their relationship the most real. It is a shame that the intimacy they created is short-lived and only seen it the first act.
Still, The Awakening starts out with some great energy and funny moments. But with its cliched characters and over-the top performances given by some of the cast, The Awakening fails to impress and leaves its audience somewhat bewildered.