THE KABBALISTIC PSYCHOANALYSIS OF ADAM R. TZADDIK by Anton Piatigorsky, directed by Chris Abraham, with Terrence Bryant and Paul Fauteux. Presented by Moriah Productions and Theatre Passe Muraille at the Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to November 26, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2:30 pm. 504-7529. Rating: NNNthe kabbalistic psychoanalysisOf Adam R. Tzaddik opens with a shaft of light gleaming on a very symbolic apple, jazz piping softly into the Passe Muraille Backspace. That's the audience's cue that Anton Piatigorsky's one-act play is going to be more a cool intellectual exercise than an emotional one -- which is perfectly fine, up to a point.The Adam of the title (Paul Fauteux) is obsessed with the ancient Jewish text the Zohar, which supposedly explains how God created himself. Having barely left his apartment in four years, Adam decides to seek psychotherapy with an unnamed doctor (Terrence Bryant). The play consists of significant moments from their 10 sessions. Why 10? Well, there are 10 sections in the Zohar. Ditto the Decalogue.
Piatigorsky's suggestion that religious themes mirror more personal and psychological ones has profound social and political implications. Propelled by the central mystery of Adam's paralysis, the play is hypnotically powerful, and given a stark, technically exquisite production by director Chris Abraham.
The problem is, the audience never discovers the full impact of Adam's psychological impasse on his daily life. What have the costs been to him? And the doctor remains too shadowy, never showing what he's learned as his patient becomes self-aware.
The script is too tidy. The neatness chokes out much of its life and makes us ignore some implausibilities. Adam, a Jew, recalls growing up in apple orchards.
Who grows up in apple orchards? Is this The Cider House Rules? How has he paid for his apartment for four years, not to mention the psychoanalysis sessions? With apple money? Still, Fauteux creates a moving protagonist by showing an Adam who's sardonic, pained and physically closed off, yet intelligent enough to know he needs help.
If only the script had some help. Then we'd feel his pain, too.
THREE BIRDS ALIGHTING ON A FIELD by Timberlake Wertenbaker, directed by Leah Cherniak, with Brett Christopher, Janet Green, Neal Miller, Melissa Kramer, Gordon Bolan and Aaron Willis. Presented by George Brown Theatre (530 King East). Runs to November 18, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $12. 415-2167. Rating: NNNthe art world -- painters, pa-trons and gallery owners -- contains more frauds than masterpieces in playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker's Three Birds Alighting On A Field. A satire on the art scene, Thatcherite England and well-to-do Brits, the 1991 piece has a dated quality but still offers some fascinating characters and intriguing situations.Under director Leah Cherniak, the third-year class at George Brown Theatre tackles the multi-character piece with mixed results. Wertenbaker's targets are at times too easy, and some performers go unnecessarily overboard on the caricatures. Anchoring the piece, though, is Biddy, the wife of a wealthy Greek builder, who begins collecting art to enhance her husband's social standing. Janet Green sails through the part with huge warmth, turning the initially naive, vulnerable Biddy into a charming but determined figure.
Brett Christopher as her insecure, social-climbing spouse is also strong. Playing Stephen, the irascible, left-leaning artist who becomes involved with Biddy when he returns to the London art world, Gordon Bolan starts tentatively but focuses the character by the second act.
Several of the other actors have nice moments, notably Aaron Willis as a Romanian seeking gifts and Rebecca Purvis as a brassy American dealer.
After the loving
bittergirl written and performed by Annabel Griffiths, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore, directed by Michael Waller, with Stephen Reich. Presented by bittergirl co-op at the Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Runs to December 2, Thursday-Friday 9 pm, Saturday 10:30 pm. $15. 343-0011. Rating: NNNlove means always feeling pain and guilt -- at least for the trio of women in bittergirl, after their significant others break up with them. The wallowing-in-the-dregs-of-old-love scenario is familiar, but writer/performers Annabel Griffiths, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore give it extra zing in their telling of parallel tales of three shattered relationships.
In each case, the breakup isn't the women's choice, but rather that of the guy -- played with variations on mealy-mouthed asshole-ness by Stephen Reich, who offers stale, bullshit excuses like, "I love you but I'm not in love with you" and "It's not about us, it's about me."
Just as vitally, Lawrence and Moore, in a production nicely paced by director Michael Waller, provide their angry, hurt characters (all the women finally get even and find peace) a touch of poignancy that shoots like a hypodermic beneath the comic skin the show so cleverly wears.
Proof that yesterday's heartache can become today's one-liner.JK
FIVE FINGERS by Robin Fulford, directed by Sarah Stanley, with Tamsin Kelsey and Ross Manson. Presented by Platform 9 at 133 Bathurst. Runs to November 19, Thursday-Sunday 8 pm. Pwyc. 703-2775. Rating: NNNan angry husband slaps his wife. It's a simple, brutal gesture, the flashpoint for episodes forward and backward in time in Robin Fulford's Five Fingers. The script gets a workshop production and a fascinating spin by director Sarah Stanley and designers Wendy White, Rebecca Picherack and Marc Desormeaux.Played out in various rooms in a private house, Five Fingers traces a loving relationship gone sour and nasty. Maybe that curdling was there from the start in the obsessive, rationalizing Tuck (Ross Manson), who reveals repressed aggression from his first monologue. He's the better-defined figure in the script's first half, but the marvellous Tamsin Kelsey -- why isn't this woman working in theatres all over town? -- simmers with her own strength, a power that finally erupts.
Stanley finds startling ways to present Fulford's sharply poetic text, using reflected images, shadows and microphones to allow us to eavesdrop on the disintegrating couple.
Let's have a full production with this same talented artistic team, please. JK Adam's apples