Review: DRY LAND

by Lynn on September 18, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Assembly Theatre, 1479 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.


Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel

Directed by Jill Harper

Set by Elahe Marjovi

Lighting by Simon Rossiter

Sound by Tim Lindsay

Cast: Mattie Driscoll

Veronica Hortiguela

Jonas Trottier

Reanne Spitzer

Tim Walker

Less a play and more a check list of teenage angst and issues in a production that is not helped by its glacial pace.

The Story. Amy is a pregnant teenage who can’t afford an abortion. She can’t tell her mother. She can’t afford the internet pill that will end the pregnancy. We are in Florida. American health care makes this situation is onerous. Amy asks Ester, another teen, to punch her in the stomach, hard to see if that will make her self-abort. Ester is lonely and needy and does what Amy says. Amy is hard nosed, manipulative and mean.

 The Production. Most of the action takes place in the school in a locker room of the pool. The girls are all on the swim team with Ester (Matti Driscoll) being so good she is trying out of a top swim team. Amy (Veronica Hortiguela) has other concerns. Driscoll is accommodating, awkward, unsure of herself and needs to be liked by Amy. As Amy, Veronica Hortiguela is cold, a bullying, impatient presence, and knows how to push the buttons of Ester. While the timing in the dialogue between Amy and Ester is fine, there is so much information about the two women that I didn’t believe it as a credible play that explored issues deeply. Playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel just dropped facts into the mix without developing them. That makes for clunky playwriting.

Jill Harper’s staging is find in negotiating the space but the scene changes are positively glacial that makes the production seem endless. Do we really have to listen to a song to end before the scene can move on? Does a change of clothes really have to take that long before a character re-appears and moves us along? I don’t think so.

 Comment. Much is made of the fact that this is Ruby Rae Speigel’s first full length play, that she was 21 when it was first produced and it was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.  That was three years ago and seems to be her only play. She then wrote a film for Netflix. For all Speigel’s good intentions and her going to Yale to be a playwright, Dry Land is little more than a checklist of teenage ills: abortion (check), girls wanting to fit in (check), bullying mercilessly (check), a shocking revelation about a character (check)  a dramatic twist (check) a change of attitude between characters (check). What we don’t have here is the actual play that explains, develops and digs deep to create credible characters to bring all this about. We are to intuit without comment that because Ester was there in Amy’s darkest moment they would have a new understanding and be friends? That because of this Ester has more confidence? That means the audience is doing the work the playwright should have. Sigh.

Cue6 is a wonderful theatre company presenting edgy work. Dry Land is a misstep. I note that almost all the actors have just graduated from a theatre school of sorts and this is their first ‘professional’ job. Better luck next time.

Cue6 presents:

Began: Sept. 5, 20198

Closes: Sept. 22, 2018.

Running Time: less than 90 minues.



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