Review: FIERCE

by Lynn on February 21, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E, Toronto, Ont.

Written by George F. Walker

Directed by Wes Berger

Starring: Marisa Crockett

Emmelia Gordon

Wes Berger’s production and the acting are  indeed fierce but the credibility of  George F. Walker’s premise left me scratching my head in disbelief.

The Story. Jayne is an angry, unrepentant druggie who is at the centre of an accident. The judge in the case has sent Jayne to see Maggie, a psychiatrist, for assessment to see how to proceed. When they meet there are fireworks. Jayne is perceptive, knows how to zero into a person’s weaknesses and to work them to her advantage. She knows secrets about Maggie (she’s looked her up and done her research). Maggie fights back finding out secrets about Jayne that reveal the cause of her anger. Both women are fierce in their combative wrangling with each other.

 The Production. Director Wes Berger knows the work of George F. Walker inside out, both as an actor and a director. He has a keen sense of the intensity of Walker’s situations and his characters in those situations. It’s all there in his direction of Fierce.

 Berger makes the most of the small space at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. Maggie’s office is neat, inviting with plants on the shelves, certificates on the walls, and a comfortable couch and chair for the ‘patient’ and psychiatrist.

Jayne (Emmelia Gordon) is in prison-garb-dark sweatpants and sweat shirt. Her hair is disheveled and unwashed. She stands, starring down Maggie (Marisa Crockett). Jayne won’t sit as suggested so from the get go she takes control of the goings on. She is watchful and susses out a situation and people. The judge used too much makeup and so Jayne thinks she’s hiding something and is insecure. She has looked up all manner of information about Maggie’s past and holds that up to her, again, challenging her power. Jayne toys with Maggie about what really happened on the night of the accident, why she takes drugs, and what happened in her life. Maggie struggles to break down Jayne’s defences, to get to the truth.

Both actresses are fine. Emmelia Gordon as Jayne is angry, feisty, belligerent, wounded and hurting. Marisa Crockett as Maggie is uptight, self-contained but easily broken. When both actresses wrangle and argue it is ‘fierce’ of course, as expected.

Director Wes Berger guides the two actresses to their explosive revelations—occasionally as does happen the dialogue is so fast one wonders if the two characters are listening to each other in order to answer. Always a tricky proposition.

 Comment. Playwright, George F. Walker is a champion of the marginalized, not just the underdog. His characters are on the edges of society, but they function well in their own way with their demons. Jayne and Maggie are two such typical Walker characters. Jayne is haunted by a death in her family and is mysterious about revealing who or what that was to Maggie. She obviously has a heart as we see in her dealings with her students when she was a teacher.  Maggie has her own demons she has to live with and has tried to overcome them by moving on and becoming a psychiatrist.

In a way, Jayne hanging on to her rage through drugs and not wanting to let go of her demons is the fiercer of the two. While Maggie should be the one in control of the situation—seeing a patient in her office for counselling—because of her training, it’s really Jayne who is calling the shots and controlling the proceedings. It’s Jayne who makes a suggestion about their relationship that Maggie seems to go along with.

That’s my problem. I don’t believe the situation in that psychiatrist’s office, or that Maggie is so inept in dealing with such a manipulative, wily character as Jayne. I don’t believe that she would go along with Jayne’s incredible suggestion at the end of the play.

If Jayne can break down her psychiatrist so easily, how is it possible the judge recommended that Jayne see Maggie of all people? If Jayne can find out such details about Maggie’s background as if it’s a secret, how can we believe no one else wouldn’t know? Are we also to believe that no one else would have known about Jayne’s troubled family life before she saw Maggie, her psychiatrist? Sorry, I just don’t believe this and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to accommodate this unbelievable stuff.

If there is disbelief in the truth, credibility of the characters, then the whole structure of the play collapses. Truly, what am I supposed to glean from Walker’s play and his fierce characters? It’s a mystery and that makes for a disappointing experience in the theatre.

Criminal Girlfriends presents:

Opened: Feb. 17, 2018.

Closes: March 10, 2018.

Running Time: 70 minutes.

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