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Love Story Fails to Capture Heart

Theatre Review

By Nick Tantaro

 

Robert Dessaix has delicately harvested love, longing and madness from a brief secret encounter in his play, A Mad Affair.

 Dessaix uses a one-hour rendezvous between sixty-something Russian writer Ivan Turgenev and a young actress on an Odessa-bound train in 1880 as a reality anchor for our fictitious journey through the hazards of love.

 It is the perfect platform to explore whether it is wise to give up contentment for a burst of bliss. Love and infatuation - something that continues to plague writers and lovers alike.

 So why did I feel Three River Theatre's production didn't rise to meet my expectations of the play? It's all do to with the power of love. To be fair, the actors worked hard, yet some of the performances lacked emotional truth.

 Michael Edgar as the lovelorn Ivan Turgenev and mayor didn't reach deep enough to create a character experiencing the pain and ecstasy of infatuation.

 John Ball, as the poor Vassily, whose only real experience of  love is with a pet cat, shines occasionally but appears constricted in a part that requires greater pathos.

 In less evocative roles, Jonathan Pedler as the down-to- earth Polonsky and deputy mayor holds his own as does Amanda Dawes as Pauline Viardot. Tia Landeg in the dual role Darya Gavrilovna and

Marya Savina is best when playing farce.

 Standout performance goes to,. Joel de la Motte's portrayal as Boris. Is that the sound of today's youth I hear when Boris confronts Vassily with hardcore reality?

 Randall Lindstrom's set design is functional. Sound and lighting are effective, although lighting was a tad off the mark at times on opening night.

 Director Stan Gottschalk has attempted to create a dance of love with Dessaix's characters and temporal weaving structure, but I need more to stir my heart.

 All the same, if you have ever been fascinated by the tangled web of attraction or fallen for the dream of love, A Mad Affair beckons you.

 

A Mad Affair can be seen at the Earl Arts Centre today and tomorrow at 8pm, and also 2pm

tomorrow.