BRILLIANT TRACES By Cindy Lou Johnson, directed by Alexandra Prichard (Discord and Din). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). To April 13. Pwyc-$20. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN
Two-handers are a familiar way for young companies to present their wares to an audience, since the focus is usually on character and text rather than production details.
That’s the case with Discord and Din’s first presentation, Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces, in which a woman in a dishevelled wedding dress stumbles into the remote, snowstorm-bound Alaskan cabin of a compassionate but confused man.
The set-up may be striking, but the script has parallels in such works as Frankie And Johnny In The Clair De Lune and Danny And The Deep Blue Sea. All focus on two disturbed, seemingly dissimilar figures who eventually drop their masks, reveal their likenesses and help/save each other.
Discord and Din’s production is only partly successful, in part because of director Alexandra Prichard’s slow rhythms. The tension that should build between Rosannah DeLuce (Jenna Harris) and Henry Harry (Lorn Eisen) rarely gets cooking, despite the fact that Henry bakes Rosannah’s satin wedding shoes to a crisp in his oven – one of the narrative’s important points.
Both actors could bring more energy to their emotional mood shifts, too, and the sense of the growing chemistry between the two characters needs to be reinforced.
One fears connecting with others, while the other fears not connecting. Without that developing closeness, the comedy rarely makes us laugh or even smile.
Harris is the stronger performer, especially in memory monologues in which she recalls why her wedding never happened; the actor disappears into Rosannah’s raw, powerful emotions.
Too bad Aaron Zorgel’s sound design doesn’t help moments such as these. His portentous score says, “Listen to this speech – it’s significant.” Let the actors and their words make that point, please.