Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dobama Theatre: The Walworth Farce

(Written by Edna Walsh; Directed by Mark Moritz; at Dobama's Lee Road Theatre in Cleveland Heights through October 3rd)

The character of Haley, well played by Carly Germany, spends most of the second half of The Walworth Farce as an unwitting hostage trying to escape from a demented family's flat. The longer the play the progressed, the more closely I related to Haley with one major exception: She was able to leave.

While calling The Walworth Farce the least compelling legitimate play I've ever seen is undoubtedly an overstatement, it is certainly the least compelling in recent memory. Perhaps it was because I was expecting something funny and entertaining -- Wikipedia defines farce as "a comedy which aims to entertain the audience..." -- and perhaps I should have taken the The Simpson's episode I watched last night as a harbinger* in this respect -- but aside from some very quiet chuckles at the beginning [i.e. before a line of dialog was spoken] it struck me as neither funny nor entertaining.

I can't really fault the actors -- who seemed to be doing the best they could with the material given, but I also hate to lay 100% of the blame on the script. Perhaps most telling, during intermission--where a portion of the audience explicably disappeared--I overheard the following exchange between a group of older women in front of me:

"It's a play about...?"
"Well, that's a good question. I can't say."
"It's dark"
"Yeah, it's dark"

That seemed to be general consensus: I certainly couldn't tell you what the play was about with any level of specificity beyond a deranged family. I can't tell you what the moral was -- if there was one -- nor do I feel any different about a particular issue or the world in general. I felt no call to action, no desire to do anything but get the hell out. I left the theater as I entered with one major exception: My wallet is $25 lighter.

Well, it wasn't all bad: The actors all pulled off 'deranged' well and Ms. Germany's Hayley was convincingly terrified. Ron Newell's set was both superbly detailed and one of the more visually interesting of recent memory which at least made the 2-hour show slightly less painful to sit through.

*- Any Given Sundance, to be specific, but I can't the exact quote from Marge. The gist: Don't trust titles.

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