Review: bloom

by Lynn on March 28, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

Peter Farbridge
Photo: John Launer


At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Guillermo Verdecchia

Directed by Soheil Parsa

Set and costumes and video designs by Anahita Dehbonehie

Sound and composed by Thomas Ryder Payne

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Cast: Peter Farbridge

Liz Peterson

Kim Nelson

A dark world after a catastrophe; a stunning production; a poetic script but for all its gripping atmosphere, I thought bloom lacked a dramatic punch.

 The Story. War has devastated everything in the dark world of Guillermo Verdecchia’s poetic play bloom. The sun never shines. There is thunder but no rain to help anything grow. Gerontion was a war veteran who killed many innocent people and is now suffering the results. He is haunted by memories. He is bitter, blind, sits in a wheel-chair and tries to forget what he did in the war and even who he loved. He is not without humanity in that he saved The Boy in the conflagration and is his protector. The Boy is trying to remember his past while Gerontion is trying to forget his.

The Production. As with any production directed by Soheil Parsa bloom  is full of thought, detail, vivid imagery and an atmosphere that illuminates the play. Gerontion (Peter Farbridge) sits in his wheel chair, looking out to us, glum, wild hair. He is surrounded by darkness. Michelle Ramsay’s stunning lighting design creates a stark, forbidding world.

The roar of an airplane zooms overhead, startling and infuriating Gerontion so that he is shaking his fists at it. It reminds him of an earlier time when he was flying one of those planes, destroying what ever was in his path. There is thunder (kudos to Thomas Ryder Payne for his wonderful sound design) but no rain.

The Boy (Liz Peterson) appears in baggy overalls such as a car mechanic would wear. He wants Gerontion to tell him what happened to him, where he came from, how he came to this place. Gerontion doesn’t/can’t remember. Gerontion recites “Beowulf” to The Boy because he can’t see to read, to pass the time. When Gerontion does remember his past we see Marie (Kim Nelson) up at the back, in modern, smart clothes with hints of a stylish apartment with books. Anahita Dehbonehie performs her wizardry with the set, costumes and videos that conjure the two worlds of desolation in the present, and a comfortable world with some colour in the past.

As Gerontion, Peter Farbridge expresses the poetry of Guillermo Verdecchia’s script with verve and a consuming passion for the words. But while Farbridge imbues the words with emotion he says them with a flat, robotic cadence, sometimes haltingly and that takes the life out of the lines. Interestingly Liz Peterson as The Boy also has that halting cadence in her speech, which would seem to be deliberate since Gerontion would be an influence on The Boy from the time he found him. Peterson has an expressive way of conveying the life of The Boy without dialogue that makes her performance more arresting in a way. Kim Nelson as Marie, a woman from Gerontion’s past, is sophisticated and compelling.

Comment. Soheil Parsa, the gifted artistic director of Modern Times Stage Company, is producing bloom again after doing it originally 12 years ago. The play is inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” a long poem about disillusionment and despair, to put it simply.   Parsa feels what is happening in our world today makes the play timely.

My concern is that while playwright Guillermo Verdecchia fills the play with elegant poetic writing and emotion, drama and tension are missing except when Gerontion wrestles with his own demons. The result seems flat, though well-intentioned.

I do love the guts and heart of Soheil Parsa and his vibrant company. They have done many bracing productions. To me bloom is a rare miss-step.

Presented by Modern Times Stage Company

Opened: March 27, 2018.

Closes: April 8, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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