Review: GRAY

by Lynn on September 28, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At The Commons, 587a College St. Toronto, Ont.

Written by Kristofer Van Soelen
Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster
Set, props and costumes by Lindsay Woods
Sound by Andy Trithardt
Lighting by Steph Raposo
Cast: Sydney Violet Bristow
Edward Charlotte
Ximena Huizi
Mamito Kukwikila
Michelle Langille
Tennille Read

Four years ago a four theatre artists got together to form a company of women performing classic plays for women. Theatre Inamorata was born. Gray is their first production and interestingly it’s written by a man, Kristofer Van Soelen. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that in this context–a women’s theatre company wanting to do classic plays for women–seems odd. The idea was to look at Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and adapt it in play form from a woman’s point of view, exploring ideas such as: body image, beauty, ugliness, art, creativity, gender issues. All noble ideas. I wish the play and the production were better at realizing their aims.

Jane sculpts a beautiful statue of Dorian, a stunning woman. Jane also is smitten with her. Dorian is hesitant. We are in the world of art and all the pretentiousness that entails. In this case the pretentiousness is focused on Opal a “gallerist” who buys and sells art and looks for the next big thing. Playwright Kristofer Van Soelen uses a mix of swearing and pretentious drivel for her dialogue—Jihadist was used to describe the tyranny of the art world opinions, much of which Opal trashes.

Van Soelen also injects comment about transgendered artists into his play, in this case in the character of Sybil who wants to be an actress. It’s too huge an issue for so slight a play.

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster is an accomplished actress in her own right. I wish she was a better director. The staging is awkward and the acting varies from accomplished (Tennille Read as Dorian) to unfortunate. If a character is described as having great acting ability and then seems to loose that ability before our eyes then there should be a difference in the two scenes of acting to make the character believable. Much more rigor and attention to detail is needed. Speak up. Stop mumbling. Enunciate. And if a character is an expert in art then the actress playing her should know the correct pronunciation for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s last name. The ‘t’ is pronounced. Google Pronunciation is no help. A call to the AGO to talk to the person who curated the Basquiat exhibit last year would have helped.

The play needs to be reworked, tightened, rethought. Try again, do better.

Produced by Theatre Inamorata

Plays until Sept. 30. 2017.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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