nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
August 19, 2009
It's reassuring to be in the presence of challenging theatre; there is clearly a desire on the part of Dalliance Theatre Company to give us something different, and new ways of looking at the human condition. In Refractions, playwright/poet Eliot Stockton takes on a hard core problem: how do we get what we want and need and still protect our most vulnerable selves? We lie to ourselves, project facades, and look away from the truth, because the truth might tell us something different than what we want to know.
Stockton is passionate about ideas, loves words and word play and is aided here by a talented ensemble under the direction of Andy Ottoson. Stockton's protagonist, the Playwright, is on the journey to resolve his unfinished play with the help of his stalwart Producer and muse. The final resolution is less than spectacular, more of a whimper than a bang; nevertheless, the action on stage is fun to watch. The play-within-the-play's characters are two young couples, Photographer and Artist, and Madison Avenue and Hedgefund.
James Allerdyce as the the Playwright, embodies the frustrated and evasive writer. He has written his own dilemmas for the players, giving them intellectual arguments with silky smooth defenses, perfect, often poetic phrasing, sometimes not quite dialogue, punctuated with overwhelming waves of animal attraction and its inevitable outcome.
Jennifer J. Hopkins is a good fit for the Producer, a feisty and confident authoritarian. She knowingly calls her Playwright to task, demanding rewrites until he gets it right.
Given their iconic names, they are "anyone" producer and "anyone" playwright. The actors have barely begun exploring what this could mean; they're acting what they imagine the icons are, but they have not yet pinned down the real people under the labels; people struggling with their real needs and desires and the truth of their lives. But this is the Fringe, the place to try things out; there's plenty of room for deeper character work here; it's only just begun.
W. Tre Davis as Hedgefund has substance and sharp edges, Mallory Hawks is too soft and sweet is for such a double-edged sword of a woman as Madison Avenue.
Alisha Soper is the narcissistic Photographer, perky and coy, self indulgent and childish; maybe not twisted enough for her relationship with the Artist, well played by Jose Joaquin Perez. They are almost quaint in their final scene together. It seems too pat. The cliche could use more interesting exploration to makes its point.
Lighting by Kate Ashton, costumes by Jennifer Fisher, and the set by Joseph C. Heitman all serve the play well. Ottoson might have tightened things up with sharper direction—actors shouldn't get away with repeated thigh-slapping and hands with minds of their own.
The buzz phrase the characters invoke is "don't flinch." Dalliance can take this advice to heart. The company is only a couple of years old, with lots of idealism, passion, and energy. Let's hope we see more of them in the future.