by Lynn on October 3, 2010

in Archive,Picks & Pans

In five short years the Company Theatre has produced edgy, gritty theatre that challenges the audience and actors alike. With their new production, Through the Leaves, they continue their exploration of provocative themes—this time the thorny subjects of love, loneliness and not being a victim. Our theatre critic, Lynn Slotkin is here to explain.

Hello Lynn. It sounds like a really gripping play. What’s the story?

It’s written by Franz Xaver Kroetz, a contemporary German playwright who deals in these dark subjects. THROUGH THE LEAVES is about the rocky relationship of Martha and Otto. Both are mid-50s or so. She is an independent woman, a successful butcher, which is odd for any time. And lonely. He is a worker somewhere, in a factory perhaps. He does not strike me as a professional man even though he carries a briefcase, but it’s usually to hold his lunch and porn magazines. And in his own way, he’s lonely too.

She dotes on him, feeding him snacks of German caviar and crackers. Being demure, accommodating. He in turn is a clod. He’s quietly gruff. He doesn’t bellow and he isn’t physically violent. It’s more emotionally forceful. He’s critical, right down to the kind of caviar she uses. He would have preferred Russian, although he doesn’t seem to know what caviar actually is. And he likes rough sex.

Is this a classic case of the woman being the victim?

Surprisingly not. And certainly not the way Martha is played here by Maria Vacratsis. Ms Vacratsis has said in an interview that Martha isn’t a victim, and I believe that from the way she plays Martha. Ms Vacratsis plays her with confidence that is not pushy. She’s not petulant either. She quietly stands up to Otto, but she’s not obsequious. He in turn is obvious in his efforts to bring her down. Alas we all know people like that. He taunts her with the porn magazine and she comes back at him, again, quietly. She holds her own.

Because she has a successful business she offers him a job in the butcher shop. Which he takes, grudgingly. Otto is all bluster which he uses to hide his insecurity. Kroetz is examining a rocky relationship that is subtle in a way, in the various dynamics. And I think to some extent, we all can all recognize it.

The production also has Nicholas Campbell who we are familiar with from Da Vinci’s Inquest.

Yes and he proves resoundingly that there is a large life after or along with television. He’s not afraid to show this guy as a fleshy, rumpled lout. Similarly Maria Vacratsis is brave in showing Martha in her fleshiness too.

And for the play’s seriousness, it’s also very funny. Both Campbell and Vacratsis are master actors both serious and comedic. As fragile and damaged as these characters are, there is a wonderful chemistry between Vacratsis and Campbell that make this challenging play work so well.

We are always squirming in a good way at how the characters react to each other. Because the geography of the set was strange, I found some of director Philip Riccio’s blocking and direction a bit clunky. However, taken as a whole, he and his wonderful cast have created a production that ripples with hidden emotion.

Another challenging, compelling production from the spunky Company Theatre.

THROUGH THE LEAVES plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until Oct. 3.