Doing Time A Breath Of Fresh Air
Submitted by Ron Foley Macdonald on 11.28.07 at 7:03pm. [original here ]
There’s something genuinely thrilling - and unsettling - about Semaphore Theatre’s world premiere of the play Doing Time. First off, it’s unapologetically hard-core sci-fi. Second, it’s a stage piece more interested in ideas that character.
For audiences who despair of the contemporary theatre’s capacity for endless navel-gazing, Doing Time is like a breath of fresh air. Adapted by director Paul Kimball and Kansas City author Mac Tonnies from Tonnies’ short story, the play dispenses with the all those self-conscious notions about the relationship between audiences and players to simply present a space-time mystery that rockets along like a great 1950 pulp sci-fi paperback.
At about one hour in length, the play follows a single young female named Leda as she is held prisoner on some kind of spacecraft. With a single unadorned set, we’re spared any attempt to visualize the ship; instead, a few hung sheets, chairs, and bed establish her cell. She’s accompanied by an aggressively chirpy attendant - Chistina Cuffari in neatly robotic role - who keeps Leda’s questions at bay for the first half of the play.
When Nick Lachance enters - as John, the ‘manager’ - Doing Time’s action picks up considerably. Lachance also injects a great deal of wry, unexpected humour into the play with his quizzical delivery and dry asides. He’s clearly having a great deal of fun with the role, defining it as a kind of slightly off-kilter existential space delivery man.
Kris Lee McBride - in the central role of Leda - modulates her performance in the central role of the piece to underplay her growing rage and exasperation. At the end of the play she achieves a striking sense of resignation that translates into a glimmer of hope, especially since she’s faced with the ultimate unknown.
Kimball’s raw, no-nonsense direction often sacrifices delicacy in order to accelerate the plot; a couple of pantomime scenes that illustrate Leda’s boredom with the voyage reflect a cinematic rather than a stage background, with brisk fade-up-and-back-to-blacks.
The only drawback to the production was the odd use of rather well-worn Bob Dylan songs (All Along The Watchtower, Lay Lady Lay) over the scene transitions. Some Tangerine Dream or Portishead might have provided something a bit more appropriately mysterious and futuristic for a show that seems suspended in some other time and space.
The inanimate basement performance space at The Wired Monk coffee shop at the corner of Hollis and Morris proved to be a surprisingly effective place to stage a play. Hanging on the walls is a rather neat series of sci-fi-like paintings that resonate with the show and warrant a separate visit by themselves.
Doing Time is small but smart production that reveals Semaphore Theatre as a substantial new player on the indie theatre scene. Aimed at wider genre-loving audiences rather than the usual jaded theatre crowd, the company has made a serious stride into a totally new direction for theatre in Halifax.