Review: HANG

by Lynn on February 13, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs, Toronto, Ont.

Written by debbie tucker green

Directed by Philip Akin and Kimberley Rampersad

Set and lighting by Steve Lucas

Sound by Christopher Stanton

Costumes by Ming Wong

Cast: Sarah Afful

Vladimir Alexis

Zoé Doyle

debbie tucker green’s gripping play is about the horrible effect of a crime on a family and how a woman at the centre of it strives to cope with all its implications. Sarah Afful rises to the challenge of the woman in a production that could be more focused and better cast.

The Story. Three characters known only as 1, 2 and 3 meet in a generic meeting room. 1 (Zoé Doyle) is a bureaucrat leading the meeting, 2 (Vladimir Alexis) is her subordinate assisting in the meeting and 3 (Sarah Afful) is the woman who is the reason for the meeting. A crime has been committed and 3 must grapple with the affects on her and her family and take the next step.

1 and 2 are almost cloying in their efforts to make 3 comfortable, offering water, coffee, tea or anything else she wants, while also asking if her husband will be coming and they don’t mind waiting for him. They misread every sign from 3 that they are being insensitive in their obsessing in getting her what she wants. She sets them straight with searing directness.

The Production. The stage of the Berkeley Theatre, Upstairs is very wide and unfortunately designer Steve Lucas felt the need to design a set as wide as the stage. A table and four red chairs are centre and down from the door to the room. A water cooler is way over there stage right with more red chairs next to it.  One gets the sense from debbie turner green’s play that claustrophobia is in order. That’s impossible with characters walking to the water cooler way over there in order to get a glass of water and come back to the table and chairs. This makes directors Philip Akin and Kimberley Rampersad’s staging seem unwieldy and unfocused instead of tight and compact.

Zoé Doyle as 1, holds her clipboard as a shield and is officious but determined to appear accommodating. She is obviously the boss of 2 but does not want to laud it over him. He is anxious to bring her what she wants but she doesn’t want to seem demanding. debbie turner green knows how to create those mine-fields of office politics with subtlety and keen focus.

Vladimir Alexis as 2 is unfortunate casting. I could not understand 90% of what this young man was saying because of his droning nasally voice and his inability to enunciate his words clearly. If he pronounced any consonants crisply it was almost by accident. His murky diction is an unwarranted distraction.

Sarah Afful as 3 is the saving grace of this production. 3 is a walking wound. While 1 and 2 are twittering around 3, fussing to get her coffee etc. attempting to make her feel comfortable,  Afful silently surveys the room, not moving. Her stillness is riveting. She sizes up 1 and 2 with a keen-eyed stare. We can almost surmise what she thinks of them before she expresses herself. She has been summoned to make a terrible, hard decision. Afful’s measured, emotional performance as 3 walks a fine line in balancing her fraught emotions and resolve to make the decision without interference. She explains the effect a crime has had on herself, her children and her husband. It’s that perfect melding of spare, glinting writing and an actress is full control.

Comment. With Hang debbie turner green has created a compact, emotionally packed play about violence, revenge, and justice with no easy answers or relief for 3. green grips you gently by the back of the neck and pulls you into the story and doesn’t let you go until the blackout, and Sarah Afful’s performance will stay with you long after that. It’s a gritty play with lots to think about and discuss.

Obsidian Theatre Presents.

Opened: Feb. 9, 2018.

Closes: Feb. 25, 2018-02-12

Running Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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