SummerWorks review: What Linda Said

WHAT LINDA SAID by Priscila Uppal (Dr. Up.

WHAT LINDA SAID by Priscila Uppal (Dr. Up Productions/SummerWorks). At Factory Studio. Aug 5 at 2:30 pm, Aug 6 at 5:15 pm, Aug 7 at 9:30 pm, Aug 10 at 10 pm, Aug 12 at noon, Aug 13 at 8:15 pm. See listing. Rating: NN

Priscila Uppal’s autobiographical two-hander imagining a series of meetings between the poet/playwright (Kimwun Perehinec) and her friend, the late writer/actor Linda Griffiths (Tracey Hoyt), should be more effective than it is.

Uppal was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just as Griffiths was in the last stages of her own battle with breast cancer. She wasn’t there for her friend at the end, and even missed Griffiths’s memorial.

Uppal’s mix of guilt and anger over both – as well as her re-examination of her life in the context of her illness – provides the strongest emotion in the script, and Perehinec is excellent at evoking these various shadings. The script works when the women – both lovers of words, obviously – express their loathing of terms like “path” and “journey” when people refer to their illnesses. And two scenes – one involving wigs, the other a karaoke number – are amusing.

But the women talk at, rather than to, each other, and there’s little sense of how they met or why they were friends, something that might be obvious to the playwright but feels missing for the audience. And some lines – especially one about “middles” – are simply confusing.

Under Gein Wong’s graceless direction, both Jareth Li’s lighting design and Maddie Bautista’s music and sound are supposed to evoke the limbo where the characters are (somehow) communing, but the effects are distracting, and sometimes the sound drowns out Hoyt’s lines.

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