Ben Cook reviews ‘Acts of the Bedroom’, part of On the Rocks, at the Barron Theatre, 20 April 2012

Rating: 4/5

While Tennessee Williams needs no introduction the writer Joanna Alpern perhaps does. Co-directing with Oliver Hayes she has decided to put her first foray into playwriting alongside one of Williams’ lesser known works. Both one act plays, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Echo, are set within the confines of the bedroom; each have a couple trying to re-establish a relationship that is on the rocks. With the stage clothed in white, it lends a ghostly, otherworldliness to the proceedings. A bed dominates the stage and it is around this prop that both couples try to carve out the contours of their relationships: what they want and what they expect to receive from them.

With the erratic patter of rain and strains of violin, Talk to Me Like the Rain begins the evening with a look at a nameless couple caught in poverty and addiction with only dreams of escape to comfort them. The man (Camron Conners) wakes up to reel off the injustices visited upon him the night before. When he asks his companion (Beth Robertson) to talk like the rain she shares a vision with him and he returns to the bed lulled by her voice. An ambiguous play pervaded by imagery of water and urban squalor, it is performed quite languidly by the cast. The slow, measured pace,  perhaps an attempt to make it seem less like an introduction to Echo, suits the mood of the piece, and both actors do an admirable job in conveying the frustrations that surround their characters.

Aptly titled Echo, the next production, inspired by the Narcissus myth, revisits similar ground. Yet if previously the bedroom was the scene after a battle, in Echo we are faced with the bedroom as a battleground for an impending war. Robert (Olly Lennard) is a man on the rise, who loves and wishes the best for his girlfriend, Kate (Adelaide Waldrop) but who fails to grasp the severity of her problems. Crippled by a sense of inferiority she manipulates Robert not out of malice but from a desire to be reminded of her impotence. She spends her days lying in bed dreaming of living as a cloud, and though she has convinced herself she is happy like this, Robert cannot accept this life for them. A sophisticated play that cleverly weaves a number of animal metaphors into the narrative, it is let down by a poor ending: an ending that, though symbolic, is neither psychologically plausible nor, taking into account Kate’s upper body strength, physically possible. Regardless of this fact Waldrop’s performance carries the night, beautifully capturing Kate’s sexually charged front without compromising on the insecure heart within.

Together these short plays make for a rewarding evening. Elegantly complementing each other, Williams’s lyrical passages combined with Alpern’s more heated exchanges provide a welcome reason to get out of the rain and into the theatre.

 

Ben Cook   

Image credit – Maia Krall Fry