BEREAV'D OF LIGHT by Ian Ross, directed by Dean Gabourie, with Derwin Jordan, Gregory Dominic Odjig, Seun Olagunju and Leon Pownall, and THE FELLINI RADIO PLAYS by Federico Fellini, directed by Idalberto Fei, with Steve Cumyn, Luba Goy, Tracy Michailidis, Eric Peterson and Andrew Strachan. Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Studio Theatre, Stratford. Runs in rep to August 25. $28.50-$50. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NN
The second bill of one-acts in Stratford's new Studio Theatre is several steps down in quality from the first.Canadian native writer Ian Ross's Bereav'd Of Light brings together an escaped African-American slave and a native American, each searching for freedom and enlightenment. The black man, pursued by his master and a slave who shares the white man's values, tries to argue for his independence on the basis of the William Blake poem that gives the show its title.
In this underdeveloped piece about fathers, sons and brothers, Ross never ventures beneath the melodramatic surface, instead contenting himself with "surprise" revelations and stock characters. He clearly intends emotional associations by naming characters Absalom, Abraham and Samuel, but the biblical echoes thud emptily instead of resonating poetically. The actors and director Dean Gabourie simply have little to work with.
A trio of Federico Fellini's 40s radio plays, here adapted by Damiano Pietropaolo, start well but later suffer from director Idalberto Fei's leaden comedy and a few overblown performances. In the first, a poor man (Steve Cumyn) inveigles a wealthy one (Andrew Strachan) into giving him his possessions. In the bittersweet second, a pair of separated lovers (Strachan and Tracy Michailidis) communicate by means of blank love letters that allow them to read whatever they wish.
The actors capture the sometimes delicate whimsy in these short pieces, but the third -- and longest -- segment, the re-enactment of a radio broadcast, is tediously unfunny, with over-the-top work by Eric Peterson as the director and Luba Goy as the show's resident diva. A few moments of magical storytelling are nearly lost in the flat-footed humour of the rest.