THE WALLS OF AFRICA written and directed by Hrant Alianak, with Layne Coleman, Tedde Moore and Nicola Pantin. Presented by Alianak Theatre at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to October 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17-$21, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN
t.s. eliot's fearful, self-con-scious J. Alfred Prufrock lives again in the shy Mr. Pym. Sleepwalking through an outwardly solitary life in bookish academe, he's got a rich fantasy life that focuses on the shape-changing Woman who inhabits his dreams. He in turn catches the attention of his landlady, Mrs. Fields, and in that triangle lies the story of Hrant Alianak's The Walls Of Africa.Dialogue is minimal in this imagistic, light- and sound-resonant piece -- there's no faulting Steve Lucas's lighting, Terry Crack's sound design or Joe Mancuso's sound effects -- as the figures play out repeated patterns.
There are moments of sadness, pain and wistfulness in Layne Coleman's Pym, who looks like a Magritte figure in his bowler hat and briefcase, while Tedde Moore's landlady is best when she's dry and nasty.
Nicola Pantin's enigmatic Woman -- dressed by Angela Thomas as a black-garbed North African seducer, cocktail-gowned streetwalker and compliant grad student -- generates all the sensuality the part requires.
But Alianak as both writer and director sketches the real-life figures too lightly. Subtext -- the poignant emotional flashes that must underlie the generally calm surface of the Pym/Fields relationship -- rarely emerges. That these two people live in such isolated worlds should touch us more. Instead, like Pym with his fantasy woman, we merely observe.