MERLIN by Paul Ledoux, directed by Pierre Tetrault, with Billy Merasty, Diana Tso, Jason Jazrawy, Pragna Desai, Steven Bush, Florence MacGregor and Kirk Dunn. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to May 12, Saturday 2 and 7 pm (except March 16), Sunday 11 am (except March 17 and 31) and 3 pm, March 14 at 11 am and 3 pm, March 15 at 11 am. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NN Rating: NN
where's the theatrical magic in Merlin? The trouble isn't with Paul Ledoux's script, which moves strikingly back and forth in legendary England to show Merlin as both a troubled youth (Diana Tso) and a mature magician (Billy Merasty) and to present his part in the well-known Excalibur-in-the-stone tale.
No, the real problem is director Pierre Tetrault's production, which is more outward show than inner substance. There's rich material here -- even a hint of incest -- but Tetrault relies on a few insipid magic tricks, some uninspired video and rushed action rather than developed characters.
Scriptwriter Ledoux works with a complex mythic narrative about the search for a just society involving warrior Saxons and cultured Britons. He captures its strands pretty well, except for an ending that has the young Arthur accepted as king far too quickly by friend and foe. It's as if the playwright has come to the end of a two-hour time slot and has to wrap up the story quickly.
I appreciate the multicultural and gender-mixed casting, though, and some actors go deep into their parts. Standouts are Florence MacGregor's nuanced Ursula, Jason Jazrawy's energetic and believable Arthur and Merasty's alternately daffy, playful and perplexed Merlin, caught in a fateful web he can't control.
But this is a show that relies too much on flashes of fire onstage and too little on moments of genuine emotion.