Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review of "The Call"

In The Call, the drama playing at Theaterworks through June 19th, a number of narratives are introduced that revolve around such issues as interracial adoption, gay marriage, AIDs, racism, and infertility.  The problem is none of these topics are fully fleshed out in this 90 minute production (which includes a 15 minute intermission).  This gives the show an unfulfilled, incomplete quality.

Playwright Tanya Barfield could have created a stronger, more fluid work if she jettisoned some of the subject areas, such as the plot line of AIDs, and focused on the central theme of the play—a couple’s emotional and personal struggles with the adoption process.  Character development is also compromised since there is so little time to fully establish each performer’s role and flesh out their motivations.

We are introduced to Annie (Mary Bacon) and Peter (Todd Gearhart), a white, married couple as they entertain their African-American friends Drea (Maechi Aharanwa) and Rebecca (Jasmin Walker) in their apartment.  Wine flows, food is eaten, and a major announcement is made that over the course of the play changes interpersonal dynamics and perceptions of others.  Annie and Peter’s inscrutable next door neighbor, Alemu (Michael Rogers), a native African, adds an air of mystery to the production.

The cast is uniformly fine.  However, because of the brevity of the play they do not have the opportunity to explore their role and make us feel for and truly understand their characters.  For example, we learn in staccato bursts that Annie has gone through much pain, heartache and adversity but, by the end of the show, she does not come off as a sympathetic person.  Yet this has more to do with not giving the audience enough time to process her plight so she appears sullen and not very likeable.

Director Jenn Thompson fills the initial part of the production with gaiety and celebration, which slowly turns into apprehension, disbelief, and distress.  Some of the scenes come across as slightly melodramatic and the finale is abrupt and unsatisfying.

The Call, a weaker then usual offering, playing at Theaterworks through June 19th.

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