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April 12, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Counting the Ways

Theatre

So there’s something I need to get off my chest before this review commences. An unfortunate discovery which has come at totally the wrong time. And I just can’t publish this without saying it first.

I find Edward Albee interminably boring.

I’ve reviewed Albee before and claimed that I liked it. But I didn’t. I lied. I lied right through my teeth. If I’ve ever told you that I enjoyed Albee, I was lying. It’s all been lies.

Albee has such a reputation that its fair to say that I must be an isolated case, although you younger, radical theatre types might leave the show with a similar sense of disquiet as my own. Counting The Ways is a surreal, dreamy and overall absurdist look at love, in particular how it manifests and changes with age. It’s the kind of show that really requires maturity and wisdom to appreciate, making this an interesting choice for a team of young theatre graduates. Perhaps my personal failure to completely engage with this production is a reflection of this disconnection. My overall feeling is that this is a play for old people produced by a very young team.

Yet what I see as a flaw could well be the production’s strength; that it reveals the agelessness of love without resorting to another hackneyed take on Romeo and Juliet. The production has an undeniable earnestness and the script and performers have a truth about them that is difficult to refute. This is exemplified in one truly superb vignette, easily the most memorable of the play, where the performers are asked (presumably by the writer, or at least some sort of higher being at any rate) to ‘identity themselves’. Stepping out of character and asking for the house-lights to be turned up, the performers present an unrehearsed attempt to describe the totality of their identity. The result is touching, truthful and undeniably entertaining.

There are also plenty of fancy extras to help supplement the production. Drooping fairy lights embrace the would-be lovers during their meditations, creating a slightly festive and certainly lively atmosphere. A live musician adds a loving touch. And to top it off, Nick Zwart and Amelia Rose Reynolds, playing He and She respectively, perform their roles with an accomplished understanding of the material. They give loads to the audience and are committed to every word they say.

Why, then, am I sitting in the auditorium so damn bored? Reason would suggest that it’s just me. Yet this is not the first time I have seen a production in Wellington where I wished more than anything that the performers were the age of their characters.

Counting the Ways
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Daniel Brown
With Nick Zwart and Amelia Reynolds

At the Gryphon Theatre, 7 – 17 April 2010, 8pm
Book at 934 4068 or bookings@backyardtheatre.co.nz

[ssba]

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