by Lynn on November 20, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Backspace

Written by Stef Smith

Directed by Will King

Set by Stephen King

Costumes by Julia Kim

Sound by Will King

Lighting by Chin Palapine

Cast: Alex Clay

Madryn McCabe

Sappho Hansen Smythe

An interesting idea in a clumsy play given an unfortunate over-stuffed production.

The Story. Polly and Owen are a loving couple. He works in a hospital and she is a corporate lawyer in a stressful job. He brings her a black box that arrived at the hospital in the hopes it would relax her. It does and we soon learn it does much more.

The Production. Playwright Stef Smith is writing about how technology takes over our lives and is addictive in an insidious way. In the case of the black box it gave Polly a feeling of peace and calm that she craved more and more which caused Owen to be very concerned about her health and welfare.

It’s a fascinating idea but Stef Smith’s writing is often clumsy and repetitive—a character repeats a line again and again and again but it soon loses its power. I got to the point in the production thinking that she didn’t know how to write sharper and clearer and so just repeated a line.

The production does not help in clarifying the point. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a small stage so ill-used as the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace stage is in Stephen King’s stuffed set. The set is on two levels. On the upper level is Polly’s desk and chair. To the left of that is a clunky room divider. On the lower level is a couch, a table in front of it, a huge chair to the left of that with a lower table-thing to the side of it. Up from that is a counter beside the room divider. Too much. All this clutter of furnishings left little room for either character to negotiate the space with any kind of ease. The only things that should have been on that set are Polly’s desk and chair and the couch where Polly and Own sat for a few scenes. Every thing else should have been removed because it’s unnecessary. You don’t have an over-stuff chair just because you might put a character on it, ONCE.

The pace of director Will King’s production seemed too slow, what with all the maneuvering of the characters around the obstacle course of the set. He also designed the sound and I found even that too loud. The voice of the black box was blaring. We are lead to believe it was calming. It’s the Backspace. It’s small. Lower all the sound to half blaring.

Madryn McCabe as Polly and Alex Clay as Owen have charm but at times I found them so tentative in their delivery I wondered if they had enough rehearsal.

Comment. Seven Siblings Theatre Company is a small independent theatre company that has been doing challenging plays for several years. I admire their guts and their ambition. Girl in the Machine is not their finest hour.

Produced by Seven Siblings Theatre:

Began: Nov. 14, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 24, 2019.

Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

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