THE YELLOW WALLPAPER PROJECT adapted and directed by Kate Cayley, with Anna Siddall and Amy Stewart. Presented by Stranger Theatre at Artword Alternative (75 Portland). Runs to December 1, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12, Sunday pwyc, stu/srs $8. 416-526-1050. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Based on a turn-of-the-century story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper Project is about a family trip that turns into a nightmare. Too bad the sturdy framework isn't better filled in.At the centre of the tale is Woman 1 (Amy Stewart), a new mother whose anxieties are visible at the show's start. Ensconced in a top-floor, window-barred room in an unfamiliar house, nursing the baby she has trouble accepting, she imagines that a creeping figure lives behind the room's patterned wallpaper. Woman 2 (Anna Siddall) plays that figure as well as all the other characters, notably Woman 1's subtly controlling husband, a doctor who knows what's good for his wife.
Stewart anchors the show with just the right honesty and openness, even in her later, seemingly bizarre, actions, while Siddall's work is best in an interpolated bit from Lewis Carroll. Too bad the grafted-on material -- including clinical material by Michel Foucault and a section from A.S. Byatt -- works against rather than for a theatrical transformation of the feminist story, which is strong enough on its own.
Adaptor/director Kate Cayley builds up the increasingly frantic quality of Woman 1 as she projects her subconscious discomforts onto the shadow-image woman imprisoned behind the yellow wallpaper. While there's obvious creativity in this young company, the production needs an injection of tension to present the wife's slide into madness or freedom, or maybe some combination of the two.