ASHES TO ASHES by Harold Pinter and THIS IS A PLAY by Daniel MacIvor (Alumnae Theatre). Runs to December 3. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
The Alumnae's two one-acts, Harold Pinter 's Ashes To Ashes and Daniel MacIvor 's This Is A Play , are a strange pairing, though each does deal in some way with artifice.
Directed by Natasha Mytnowych , Ashes To Ashes is cryptic Pinter, a sparely written script in which Devlin ( James Lukie ) questions Rebecca ( Dinah Watts ) about her former lover. Are the two we see currently involved? Maybe the interrogator is jealous of the ambiguous man who's been close to Rebecca.
But she's the central figure, manipulating - consciously or not, we're never sure - both her memories and Devlin, who becomes increasingly drunk as Rebecca tells her stories. In the ensuing discussion of God, people walking into the sea, soccer and whether pens can be guilty, there's a touch of absurdist comedy. But Pinter undercuts the play's quiet humour with suggestions of violence and torture.
The far lighter This Is A Play, first presented a decade or so ago at the Fringe, looks at the inner and outer worlds of theatre artists; a trio of actors deliver their internal thoughts as performers more frequently than they speak the lines of the play they're in. You want more absurdity? The play's about three heads of lettuce, and there are nods to Tennessee Williams, Judith Thompson and generic down-home kitchen-sink theatre.
The tension between the characters is nothing compared to that between the actors ( Greta Kerasia , Chris Kozak and Tricia Brioux ) and the offstage philosophizing composer ( Neal Murphy ). Sexual liaisons, backbiting and upstaging are more important to the performers than their roles, and director Margaret Gobie intentionally plays up the coarse acting of all concerned. It's fun, but the piece gets tiresome by the end.
The productions make good use of two of the Alumnae's most skilled and reliable actors, Brioux and Watts. As the Older Female Actor, wearing a bad Dolly Parton wig, Brioux knows how to time a line or a roll of her eyes to great effect. Watts gives Rebecca complexity from the start, suggesting at various moments world-weariness, avoidance, sensuality and confrontation. There's a rich emotional world inside this troubled woman, and Watts tantalizes us with little glimpses of it. firstname.lastname@example.org