Theatre writer Caroline Russell-King offers her Postcard Review of Alberta Theatre Projects’ current production Actually.
Playwright/composer: Anna Ziegler.
Production company/theatre space: Alberta Theatre Projects, Martha Cohen Theatre, Arts Commons.
Length: 90 minutes (no intermission).
Genre(s): Drama/mystery (a what happened, not a whodunit).
Premise: When two freshmen meet, it is at a time of their lives when each is dealing with loss, betrayal, existential angst and lots of drinking — did the crime of rape happen or not?
Why this play? Why now?: At a time when movie moguls are being sent to prison and the #MeToo movement is alive and well, this play slips confidently into the zeitgeist.
Curiosities: I pondered how difficult it was to listen to characters with irritating speech patterns and what that would be like in court. Might the play have benefited from a slight edit in its backstory meanderings and postulating? When will we get back to talking about art instead of issues? Did my mind superimpose an image onto the set, is it an oblique reference or not?
Notable moment: The ending.
Notable writing: Anna Ziegler is an accomplished American playwright. Whomever you see as the protagonist in this play informs your POV, which is an interesting treatise on the subject at hand.
Notable performances: Emma Houghton plays the self-absorbed, scholastically bright Jewish woman in a way that is both annoying and endearing. Diego Stredel, who makes his debut at ATP, is the African-American student who uses music and alcohol to deal with his transition to university life. The two cling and clash, showing how fallible and fucked up humans are.
Notable design/production: Sarah Uwadiae gives us a simple, if uninspired set. We’ve seen the clichéd crack on the stage to indicate a symbolic division too many times before. The actors’ faces were sometimes lit by lighting designer Beth Kates, however I wasn’t sure the shadows were on purpose or if actors couldn’t quite find their light.
Notable direction: Jenna Rogers does seem to like the stand-front-and-deliver style of play while the other has intermittent freezes. She does, however, honour the symmetry of the piece.
One reason to see this show: This play actually challenges ones view on if and when a crime is committed (I’m sure the Starbucks coffee chats post show will continue which is always good).
(Photo of Emma Houghton and Diego Strudel in Alberta Theatre Projects’ Actually courtesy Ben Laird.)
Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of Actually runs until March 15 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. For tickets and showtimes please go to https://albertatheatreprojects.com/.
Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here at www.carolinerussellking.com.