Track Road Theatre (which goes by the initials TRT these days) is back on its game with this evening of two one-act plays by European writers from the first quarter of the twentieth century. It’s one of the few times TRT has ventured outside The Bahamas for its material, and certainly the first I can remember when it’s produced something from outside the Diaspora. The two plays are short and small, and both were adapted for a Bahamian audience by Matthew Kelly, who also directed the evening.
The first, The Open Door, is an intimate story of impossible love originally written by UK playwright Alfred Sutro and published in 1922. Kelly has kept the dramatic core, but has adapted the characters and some details to fit the local audience, and it works. It’s performed by Kelly and Selina Archer. Archer is competent as Glennis Heastie, but it is Kelly who shines in his role. I’ve seen him on stage in numerous parts, but in this character and in this style of acting he has found his home, and he is clearly at his best when he’s occupying intimate, subtle parts.
The second, The Bear, is another love story of sorts, this one by Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright and short story writer. It’s typical Chekhov, with Russian passion all over the place, and tension up the wazoo, and it stood in sharp and successful contrast to the smaller, tighter, subtler Sutro work. In this one, the definite star is Dion Johnson, whom audiences might recognize from Da Spot and who recently performed in Guyana at CARIFESTA X 2008. He takes over as the rough, uncultured title character. His work is complemented by Leslie Ellis-Tynes, who does a fair job of holding up her end of the bargain in what is her first major role.
The performance takes place in the Hub, and is performed in the seven-eighths round, and the intimacy of the space and the closeness of the action lend an energy to the performance that isn’t common in Bahamian works. The usual style of over-the-top acting which has its place on a big, remote stage, is unnecessary in this setting, and it’s this which allows Kelly in his quieter moments to shine.
If there is any flaw in this production, it’s in the fact that almost all of the performances take place on a single note. The intimacy of the space calls for the expression of subtle, inner tension, something which not all of the performers have mastered, and it also allows for a range of moods and moments that was not capitalized on. What would also have added to the experience would have been a more intimate connection with the audience. One of the great advantages of theatre in the round is that the so-called “fourth wall” of the stage is swept away. There is no barrier of distance, stage, or light between the audience and the action, and that closeness could have been played with far more fully. The other, slightly less obvious, challenge is that the transitions between the different registers in the language — between the Bahamianized elements and the original early twentieth-century passages — are sometimes rough.
But that aside, this evening is a bargain at $15 a head. Live performance doesn’t come this cheap or this good very often — and if you get your tickets in advance, your $12 will go a long, long way.
Love in Two Acts plays until Sunday March 1 at the Hub, Bay Street and Colebrook Lane. Don’t miss it!