THE INNOCENTS by Daniel Karasik (Tarragon Near Studio, 30 Bridgman). To May 13. $17-$22. 416-531-1827. See listing. Rating: NN
This contemporary drama about modern middle-class notions of ambition and success falls flat due to an underdeveloped premise, unlikeable characters and spotty staging.
Stanley (playwright Daniel Karasik, read an interview here), a nerdy, smart-ass young lawyer, is representing Aaron (Nathan Barrett), a lazy, nihilistic, trust-fund 20-something charged with murder. The story expands to include Stanley's awkward romantic attempts with high-achieving reporter Laura (Virgilia Griffith) and Aaron's barista ex-girlfriend, Jackie (Amelia Sargisson).
Contrasting scenes about Stanley and Aaron get old fast, making the whole show feel overly didactic. Yet by the end, the lesson this comparison is supposed to convey remains frustratingly out of reach.
The biggest problem is relating to the characters. Great writing and acting can generate empathy for unlikeable people, but these variously flawed characters never do anything compelling, inspired or unexpected enough to hook us into caring about them. All we get are combative back-and-forth jailhouse interviews, awkward foreplay in a condo and dull corporate lunch chit-chat.
Barrett's over-privileged ne'er-do-well is believable, but Karasik unfortunately limits Aaron's narrative thread (and potential) in favour of focusing on Stanley's cringe-worthy sexual exploits.
On top of this, much of director Jordan Tannahill's blocking seems like business for busyness's sake, and some locations, like Jackie's coffee shop, need to be better established, especially given the minimalist all-white set.