SPAIN written and directed by Michael Rubenfeld (diy/Kneeling Bus/Absit Omen). At the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). To October 29. $19-$33. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 72. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
The love triangle theme is a dramatic staple, and every generation likes to reconfigure it in its own way. Michael Rubenfeld's Spain, about three drifting 20-somethings, could do with with bolder lines and sharper angles.
The play, revised from its hit 2004 SummerWorks production, focuses on the somewhat codependent friendship between Eric (Steve Puchalski) and Jared (Justin Conley). When Eric's girlfriend, Beth (Siobhan Power), returns from studying art in Italy, she upsets the dynamic between the two guys.
It's a sitcom subplot premise, but Rubenfeld textures it with some authentic-sounding dialogue and fun shots at the struggling-artist life. His decision not to make his characters too sympathetic is brave, but makes for some frustrating scenes. It's hard to care for these people, especially when you don't know why anyone hooked up with anyone else in the first place.
The strongest scene comes in the middle, when all three are together and Beth discovers that Eric thought she was studying in Spain, not Italy. But Rubenfeld fails to push the situation far enough. He also doesn't deal with the big elephant sitting centre stage - namely, is Jared gay?
The performances are okay, but I liked the SummerWorks cast more. Puchalski brings a shaggy charm to Eric, but Conley's Jared is pitched at too extreme a level throughout.
Best is Power, who brings warmth and compassion to her Beth in her final scenes.