Review: GOTCHA

by Lynn on November 25, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Park Place Theatre at the Mady Centre, Barrie, Ont.

Written by Barrie Keefe
Directed by Alexey Serebryakov, People’s Artist of Russia
Sets and Lighting by Joe Pagnan
Head of wardrobe, Lindsay Junkin
Cast: Jakob Ehman
Katie Lawson
Andrew Moodie
Trevor Pease

A shouty, badly directed production about a young man lost in the educational system.

The Story. A young man, known only at “Kid” has just received his high school progress report that will doom him to a life of underachieving and menial jobs. He barges into a room to retrieve his motor scooter where he’s parked it (illegally) for safekeeping. Also in the room is Ton, the Kid’s loathed gym teacher, writhing on the floor in a clutch with Lynne, another teacher. Kid is wily. He sees an opportunity here. Ton is married and not to Lynne. He holds both teachers hostage, wanting to have his say and tell them what he thinks of them, and threatens them by saying he will drop his lit cigarette into the gas tank of his scooter if they try to escape. Their pompous Principal is coerced into joining them.

What follows is the Kid raging, detailing his many disappointments, threatening to blow them all up; Ton bellowing back threatening to beat up the Kid if he had the chance; Lynne trying to be calm and sympathetic; and the Principal, clueless and pompous in equal measure. Everyone is free to roam that room. No one is tied up.

The Production. Joe Pagnan’s set of the dingy room is effective in establish a dreary atmosphere. The Kid’s scooter is up near the door. To the left of that is a window. Presumably the room is in an upper floor because during the play some of the captives yell out for help. They also can see that there is a soccer game going on close by. Ton is supposed to participate.

I guess that’s why director Alexey Serebryakov has Ton (Trevor Pease) doing intense warm-up exercises in the room as the audience files in. We watch him do push-ups, high knee lifts, pace, snort and limber up. I found it all mystifying and rather fruitless

Alexey Serebryakov is a celebrated actor in his native Russia. He has starred in over 150 films, most notably in Leviathan. I have scoured his program biography and cannot find any trace of his ever having directed a play, and it shows. Everybody yells or bellows. He has said, through his interpreter because I don’t think he speaks English, that his aim here was to show what it’s like to be a Russian actor, or perhaps he meant how Russian actors act. Presumably they bellow everything without nuance or variation. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference between acting here and Russia, but I don’t see the point of watching Canadian actors bellowing in the style of Russian actors, in a play written by a British playwright getting a production in Barrie, Ontario.

The whole premise of the play is that the Kid is seriously threatening the three hostages by threatening to blow them all up by dropping his lit cigarette down the open gas tank. Kid knows he would die too and he doesn’t mind, so depressed is he by his lot in life. The point of the production, therefore, should be for the three hostages to overpower Kid, take the cigarette away from him and safely stow the motor scooter out of the Kid’s reach. That never happens.

The kid holds the motor scooter with both hands, the lit cigarette is in his mouth, and he pushes the scooter around the room, in front of the Ton, Lynne and the Principal yet no one tries to over power him. The Kid is over here stage right, on a platform bellowing. The Principal is in front of him. The motor scooter is behind the Principal yet now one over powers the Kid. I think I lost count at 15 of all the opportunities that were there to overpower the Kid. This isn’t clever direction. This is just silly.

While Jakob Ehman as the Kid is directed to scream most of his lines without variation, Ehman is such a quirky actor and is almost unrecognizable from one role to the next, one finds oneself being startled again and again, “Ah, yes, Jakob Ehman.” He has an arsenal of ticks and reactions that are so right for the Kid.

As Lynne, Katie Lawson has some sweet moments with the Kid. Andrew Moodie as the Principal and Trevor Pease as Ton are not well served by the director.

A lot got lost in translation with Gotcha, namely the anger of the characters and the situation; illuminating an educational system that marginalizes people like the Kid.

Comment. Artistic Director, Arkady Spivak has been a very creative programmer for Talk is Free Theatre. Gotcha is worthy, but the production was let down by the director.

Talk Is Free Theatre presents:

Opened: November 20, 2015
Closes: November 28, 2015
Cast: 4; 3 men, 1 woman
Running Time: 90 minutes approx.

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