Rogues of Urfa written and performed by Araxi Arslanian, directed by Rebecca Brown. Presented by Alianak Theatre Productions and Artword at Artword Alternative (75 Portland). Runs to April 4, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Araxi Arslanian has a deep, rich voice and a strong, robust stage presence. Given the right material - such as her Dora Award-nominated role in 2001's Our Country's Good - she can knock your socks off. Strangely, her own script, Rogues Of Urfa, though it deals with obviously autobiographical material, doesn't play up her strengths.
The show, mounted in an earlier version at last year's SummerWorks festival, offers two parallel stories.
One deals with an Armenian man trying to survive the genocide of 1915-18. The other concerns an aspiring Canadian actor coping with a rare physical ailment that brings on not only pain and confusion but also discrimination by her theatre school - and later professional acting - peers.
Arslanian links the two stories sloppily, making it hard to follow or care about anyone, even though we continually see them in high-stakes situations. It's significant that there's more in the play's program than in the play itself about the Armenian genocide and arterio-venous malformation.
The stories obviously mean something to the author, who bookends them with a faux mythic tale that fails to resonate.
Even director Rebecca Brown an't clear up the confusion or hide the fact that linking the murder of more than a million Armenians to the cruel taunting of one schoolgirl is, in the end, in questionable taste.