Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From Where I Am Standing: Papa Was a Rolling Stone

Identity, absent parents, terrorism, and false assumptions are all in the mix in Delirium's production of From Where I Am Standing. But a slight and tender story is crushed under the weight of an overindulgent soundtrack and excess theatricality.

Meg's father (Oliver Kaderbhai) left her and her mother when Meg was a child. She (Shamaya Blake) is called to India when he becomes a person of interest in a terrorist attack on the British Embassy. Her troubled relationship with her father holds her back for years after he has passed and it is only when she reopens the past that she learns the truth about who her father really was.

With flashbacks to her father and mother (Miranda Menzies) as teens to flash forwards to Meg and her partner (William Hartley), a visionary of reconnection in an age of social media disconnection, the production is ambitious. The company appears to be trying to take on global issues, over an extended period of time, and find the personal in them. But ultimately that overreaching ambition crushes what could be an affecting piece about personal journeys and communication.

Each scene and moment is directed with equal weight and everything comes off like it's a critical key to a mystery but the scenes do not live up to this unfortunate tone and expectation. And not all the scenes ARE in fact necessary--either as plot or character development (in particular the heavy political talk in the Dad's teenage years doesn't set the stage for him later leaving and living the nomadic lifestyle he adopts).  And without emotional ebbs and flows the story has no room to breathe. 

Using tablet computers and text and image projections on a series of antique suitcases, the production mixed old and new in an interesting way. But sadly the music in the show dripped a heavy emotional syrup over all the actions. Rather than letting performances (which were great across the board) or direction (which was here too heavy-handed) lead the audience to the emotional moments, the music was oppressive and made for some eye-rolling moments that un-scored may have been poignant.  Similarly, adding another unnecessary layer was the use of physical theater.  Some of these elements, if handled deftly, could have built up the narrative.  But instead it comes across as a jumble--energetic and well-meaning--but too much. 

The final scene between Oliver Kaderbhai and Michelle Luther (another nomad he encounters in the Embassy) was flirty, emotional, and powerful.  It showed that this is a talented company but their over-reliance on their theatrical grab-bag actually got in the way of drama.  Their storytelling suffered for it.

The production happened to suffer a lighting board meltdown right before the show started but I found the lighting operation was largely seamless and did not take away from the show at all. So bravo to the tech crew under these circumstances.

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