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Wednesday, March 31,2010

Mixed messages

'Talking With' marred by uneven performances

by Paul Wozniak

Monologues — like stories — require different skills from an actor than standard stage dialogue. "Talking With," by the pseudonymous Jane Martin, is at times a struggle for the actors of Icarus Falling and for director Erica Beck. Some scenes have been given painstaking attention, compared to others that look barely memorized. While there are monologues that provoke intense emotions with cutting insight, "Talking With" overall feels like a practice run for student resumes rather than a cohesive theater production.


Martin’s script is as biting and surreal as a David Sedaris story with plenty of dark colors and witticisms that are beautifully balanced by its heart. Many of the actors, unfortunately, are unable to delve as deeply into themselves as the monologues require, coming up with safe, bloodless gestures instead of letting the words cut into their skin.


Amy Winchell proves to be the most adept in her monologue "Clear Glass Marbles." Winchell’s character discusses her mother’s final days. The marbles that her mother holds on to like her final breaths, punctuate each stanza in the story, dropped by Winchell on the wooden stage with a crack. As the end looms closer, the marbles keep falling, one by one, into a powerful, poignant crescendo.


Other monologues of merit include "Scraps," performed by Sadonna White; "Dragons," by Brittney Benjamin; "French Fries," by Christine Fisk; and "Marks," by Melody Teodoro-Kurtis. In "Rodeo," Teodoro-Kurtis’ eyes dart frantically about the room as if tracking a gnat on speed. Her inability to focus on anything (in an apparent quest to remember her lines) is a disappointing display of the unevenness present in some of the other monologues. She makes up for this mishap in "Marks," which explores the transformative power of pain.


White faces a similar situation, quivering with childlike vulnerability between two realities in "Scraps" before reciting vacant pronouncements in the lifeless "Lamps."


Set in front of the unadorned white walls of Studio 1210 (which provide little ambiance), "Talking With" feels more like renegade-style performance art than a fully realized production. Without any over-arching story, director Beck does not seem to know how to infuse her production with any synergy. This lack of cohesion turns ‘Talking With’ into a hastily produced best-of with some lame B-sides instead of the edgy concept album it was designed to be.


'Talking With'
8 p.m. Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3
Presented by Icarus Falling, 1210 Turner St.
 $10 ($5 for IF Virgins)
(517) 898-1679
www.icarusfalling.com



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