Review: ECHOES

by Lynn on December 2, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Sterling Studio Theatre Collective until Dec. 1. Written by N. Richard Nash. Direction, set, sound and lighting by Angela Besharah. Starring Carleigh Beverly, Noah Davis, Nathan Mitchell.

Produced by (un)happy radish co-op. At the Sterling Studio Theatre Collective until Dec. 1.

Bravo to indie theatre companies who want to act, might not get the opportunities in the ‘usual’ places, so they create their own opportunities; invite ‘the media’ to review it (hopefully giving it the stamp of approval) and hope for the best that people will come. The production of Echoes by N. Richard Nash affords three committed actors and their equally committed director to put on the play and show their ‘chops’.

American playwright N. Richard Nash is best known for The Rainmaker 1954) which was a Broadway hit that was made into a successful film. He was not as successful with Echoes, a Broadway failure in 1974. The show proved to be the reason that lead Nash to leave the theatre for Hollywood to write screenplays and novels, because they were easier to write.

Echoes takes place in a mental institute and concerns two fragile souls—Tilda and Sam. She seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder and he believes that his rages have lead him to kill someone. In this desolate place they fall in love; decorate an imaginary Christmas tree and perform other imagined rituals that get them through the day. There is also another character who is silent. At times he might be an orderly in his uniform; or he looks like a surgeon in his scrubs with a protective mask over his nose and mouth. In any case he has some kind of authority over the two, especially Sam. A quick Google search of the play reveals that this character is a psychiatrist. (note for future productions and producers. I find it absolutely maddening when a program lists the actors in the production but not the characters they play. Or the address of the theatre or the dates of the production.)

The psychiatrist takes Sam away for some reason and when Sam comes back he has to tell Tilda that he is now well enough to return to his family. It’s the first she or we have heard of this. He professes his love for her but now must try and live in the ‘real’ world with his wife and young child. Tilda is left alone and lost at the end.

I can see why Echoes was a failure in 1974. It is confusing in its intention and in its characters; as well as in the world of the institution. It’s a two act play without seeming to present a problem in one act that is resolve in the other. I don’t for a second believe these characters are metaphors for our own times; or represent our inability to tell what is real from what is imagined, as director Angela Besharah has indicated in her program note.

Ms Besharah has created an austere world on the bare stage except for two chairs strung with lights. She stages her actors with economy but some points with respect to the psychiatrist are confusing. When the man enters and exists through the door upstage he is hunched and waddles like an ape. Why? For some reason the man wears gloves that glow in the dark in one scene. Why? Tilda and Sam are afraid of this character. Is it because they imagine him as an animal and not a man? Is it because they know he’s a man but are afraid of him as they would an ape? Too esoteric. Clarity is needed.

Both Carleigh Beverly as Tilda and Noah Davis as Sam are focused, committed and give a respectable indication of the love each of these characters has for each other while battling their mental demons.

I thought it might be best not to review it because the play and production do little to illuminate the point. And truth to tell I don’t think this play was a wise choice to showcase the company or their talents. That would mean I would have to do it for every play and production I found lacking. So for this one at least, I’m posting the review a day after it’s closed.

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