Saturday, March 6, 2010

Review of Tracks In The Snow

Another day, another play. Another review, same website.

Theatre Review – Tracks In The Snow for Raconteur Theatre Company .

The ambiance of Club Diversity on South High Street is unmistakable, and typical of those intimate bars that have been around since the year two. This one is remarkable only because it’s carved into architecture at once familiar in German Village; remnants of plaster over lathe, ancient brick, exposed beams - all giving the impression of strength, history, dignity, and quiet repose.

After mildly curious stares by local patrons, someone led me up a flight of wide steps and down a hall to a room about the size of a small efficiency apartment. At the front is the acting area. In the rear, light and sound boards. In between, purple walls, tables, chairs, imaginative drawings on what had once been large windows.

All this is Raconteur Theatre Company – every bit of it. The experience does not begin with the play, but when you walk in the door of the building.

To begin their 2010 season, Raconteur has chosen the play Tracks In The Snow, by Neil McGowan. The story centers around a young man, forced to take shelter with a farmer and his family during a snow storm. Complications arise when the young man interacts with the farmer’s two daughters …

Yeah, yeah, it was all I could do to write that last sentence. My first impression of the plot was that it fell somewhere between a soap opera and a very old joke. The characters were less than subtle exaggerations of real people – certainly larger that life. Worse, like a parody of Greek tragedy, I anticipated the ending right from the beginning.

So … with this comforting feeling of condescending superiority, at what point did I become aware that the characters moved from bazaar to interesting? When – and more importantly, HOW – did I become involved in their lives?

Everything, of course, begins with the writing. Neil McGowan has purposely created characters that are “weird” by their own admission. As more intimate details of their lives are revealed, so are their social and cultural values. The young man, representing the audience, is at first distant, an observer. As he is reluctantly drawn in, so are those of us who are watching and listening. If the purpose of the playwright is to say that we are all unique, yet share variations of the same very real issues … well then, congratulations, Mister McGowan, ya got me.

But even the best of scripts is subject to interpretation. Somewhere during the roughly two-hour presentation, the characterizations went from my impression of “strange” to “strong.” I’ve tried to pinpoint when that happened – for some reason that seems important to me – but I can’t. Only after the fact was I aware that my attitude had changed.

Perhaps it was in the performance of Leslie Robinson as the family matriarch. Ms Robinson was certainly the most believable of the cast members, and always a joy to watch in whatever role she takes.

Or my involvement might have been the result of watching Sean Reid, Jonathan Carter, Lorelei Moore, and Tom Shafer. At first they appeared to tip toe around the edges of burlesque in their broad character presentations, but by half way through the show I found myself nodding my head, “yes, I do know people like that.”

From the start I was intrigued with the performance of Andrew Goodwin. Mister Goodwin starred in one of my own plays several years ago, and I was curious to see his transformation into this new character. At first he appeared stiff, even formal. But as the play evolved, so did his character, becoming softer, more sensitive, even slightly haunted.

In the end, however, the main thrust of Tracks In The Snow is carried by Katie Powell. This talented performer is a dynamo of energy, leading the direction of the plot down one seeming rabbit trail after another. Ironically, you know this very exuberance will eventually doom the character. None of her dreams will be fulfilled.

The Raconteur Theatre Company’s production of Tracks In The Snow is a funny sad play, and if your nature is sensitive, the shadows will remain on the edges of haunted memory for some time.


1 comment:

Julie M said...

WOW!!!That was a great review. I am now terribly curious...