Review – “Evacuate”: Rhymes With Orange Productions, Toronto Fringe

I saw Rhymes With Orange Production’s “Evacuate” Saturday afternoon at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, a show written and directed by Katie Alguire. It starred Anne Shepherd (who played Sister Aloysius in Bygone’s production of “Doubt”) and Tom Bolton, with a brief appearance by Scott Cavalheiro. The show follows Iris and John, an elderly couple faced with the possibility of abandoning their home when a forest fire starts nearby. The show is on the whole very well written, and had a somewhat dark and unexpected ending.

Tom Bolton as John is a delight. He was at once a cranky, crotchety old man and a worried, loveable human being. He very much reminded me of my Mother’s Father, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him onstage. Anne Shepherd as Iris was funny and playful, though at times worked a little too hard at seeming old. Overall, both actors did a good job with a text that had a very natural sound, but relatively little action.

The script itself was good, but could use a few revisions. Some of the more interesting moments, like the discovery of the photograph (I won’t go into more detail so as not to spoil it) were not developed to the extent one would hope. This is something that could maybe be addressed in a later incarnation of the show, perhaps one that was lengthened just slightly. The end of the play was also a little disturbing, and possibly not in the way it should have been. A sudden raising of the stakes leaves the audience feeling shocked, but not at all satisfied, and was another moment that could have been developed further.

The play’s biggest fault was its staging. The arrangement of the set made it difficult for the actors to have much movement, and while the chairs and floating window created some nice symmetry for the pre-show, it was not the best design for a play of that length, especially when a lack of depth to the stage meant lots of pacing back and forth. The lighting design was a little surreal at the end, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I haven’t made up my mind as to whether or not I liked the choice, but it was certainly memorable.

Despite an overall melancholy tone, “Evacuate” was a funny and enjoyable play. Very natural characters and dialogue made it easy to watch, and so this is one I would add to my recommended list.

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