theatre review

Tangled Tongues Performance
Firehall Arts Centre
November 17-21

Back in the late 1980s, Toronto playwright John Krizanc’s Tamara became a huge international hit. An intelligent script about art and fascism in 1920s Italy, its mega-success was due mainly to its format and setting. The play was set in a large house with scenes going on simultaneously in different rooms and audience members given the option to follow whichever actors or line of action they chose. Tamara never made it to Vancouver, but Peter Weiss’ clever Haunted House Hamlet, using the same devices, was staged here a couple of times by Tamahnous Theatre.

The Secret Project follows a similar format at the Firehall but on a much reduced scale. The audience hears the two characters, Dacia, King Queen [sic] of Amnera and her assistant, Frances, explain how the Amneran occupation of Carvuun is being resisted by Carvuunan rebels who are threatening to blow up a dam. The audience is then divided into two groups, and each follows Dacia or Frances through hallways and stairwells to hear her side of the story.

At the midpoint of the show the two come together to dance, drink tea, and reveal some political tensions in their relationship. In the final scene they confront one another again at the dam in a highly stylized, slo-mo wrestling match that looks a lot like the contact improvisation that used to be so popular on the frontier between dance and theatre in Vancouver.

The story itself seems like a red herring—why the elaborate political allegory? More interesting are the environmental components and some of the acting. I was in the group chosen to follow Dacia. Though it would have been better to let us follow whomever we wanted, I lucked out. Nneka K. Croal turns out to be a fascinating actress whom I hadn’t seen before. She made her less than gripping monologue material exciting to hear. The wrestling match between the small, dark Croal and tall, blonde Toni Rozylo’s Frances was utterly compelling. Nice work by director Adrienne Wong.

The Secret Project seems very much like a work in progress. If it were to be further developed, the key goals should be to improve the script and expand the environmental elements. If an audience is going to be asked to get off its collective ass and wander the shabby recesses of the Firehall, it deserves more of a payoff.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 8:20 PM
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