Bicycles, clowns & cubicles

Vogt B delivers an uncommon and entertaining event that student theatre so desperately needs

John Palen and Brittany Ross-Fichtner keenly grasp the chemistry of a hopeless couple.
John Palen and Brittany Ross-Fichtner keenly grasp the chemistry of a hopeless couple.

Theatre Review: Vogt B @ Vogt Studios, Carruther's Hall, until Feb. 3

Take a story about a bicycle, a cryptic dance number, some awkward office humour and an enigmatic clown show, and then you’ve got this year’s Vogt B.

The student-run series is currently performing their latest installment of one-act plays, four of which are on the bill for this slot. Not straying from any challenges, this string of productions is—in every sense of the word—diverse.

With the reproduction of two classic texts, one student-written play and one student-conceived dramatic concept, Vogt B is a showcase that is not to be missed, and occasionally, not to be understood. Wendy Wasserstein’s 1985 text, The Man in a Case kicks things off. The play is by no means a major dramatic piece; instead, it’s a concise look at the idiosyncrasies of hopeless relationships. An austere scholar (John Palen) is visited by his bubbly fiancée (Brittany Ross-Fichtner) in an afternoon of unacknowledged disquiet, second thoughts and rigid naiveté. Light humour turns
to silent displeasure with the introduction of a bicycle, concluding in Palen’s private display of emotional uncertainty.

Like the text itself, the production isn’t profound, yet it keenly grasps the necessary chemistry (or lack
thereof) between the peculiar couple. It smoothly transitions from a comedic exploration of its subject to skepticism about the couple’s underlying dynamic. The establishment of the precise mood and the delivery of a few good lines make this production satisfactory— an appropriate interpretation of
the script.

Following this light drama is Chris Oldfield’s office humour The Store … Again … . Laughing at uneventful office hours seems to be in style these days considering the success of shows such as The Office, and Oldfield sticks to the trend. Perhaps it’s the fear of things to come, but many of us, including myself, can’t get enough of the drearinessof cubicles.

Set in the doldrums of business life, this student-written production does its boring subject a proper treatment.

Not much happens in the play, with the majority of the drama concerned with the absence of a proper office chair. The production relies heavily on deadpan silences, extended awkward behaviour, and circular activity to try and force a laugh out of you—and it occasionally succeeds. The problem with this script is not the subject or style of humour, but the repetition of awkward antics and comedic inactivity. As an avid fan of gawky comedy, I was quite happy with the first few amusing cracks until the reiteration took hold. The play is essentially a string of semi-funny moments that never tie together, and this inevitably results in the audiencelosing its appreciation for the truly amusing banter.

Trimming the script would have made the play hilarious, but it’s lost in self-indulgence where laughter is sparse. Third on the showcase is Tennessee Williams’ Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen.

It’s a script that, after a first read, may leave you inclined to stand on the closest chair and spew lushpoetry for no particular reason.

The rhythm and poetic narrative of this piece is impeccable—capable of inspiring even those who have
no understanding of the text. Opening with an abstract choreography that could have quite possibly been choreographed by a group of Transylvanian vampires, the play slides into poetic recitation by both actors. Their monologues harmonize well, as they glide through the candles and rose petals of he silken set.

Lighting is cleverly used in the poetically lavish atmosphere, alternating between whitewashed hues and menacing blood reds. The use of a quasi-dark soundtrack adds to the general sense of perplexity, creating an elegiac, although not necessarily coherent, performance. A proper display of the dark and rhythmic, this Vogt production succeeds as a melodiously enchanting piece.

And finally, what better way to end your showcase than confusing your audience with Sacha Kovac’s
Cry From An Indian Wife. It’s not often that I leave a performance entirely baffled,
unable to discern what I thought or if I enjoyed it. Then again, it’s not often that I go to see clown hows.

Cry From An Indian Wife is a production that needs two, or more, viewings to have any hope at understanding of the performance. I say that not as a negative remark, but a comment on the enigmatic nature of the semi-experimental piece. The narrative is generally impossible to follow as dialogue is nonexistent. There are many movements and dramatic concepts that are likely symbolic—yet to define their meaning would require a careful analysis, if not a meeting with the student director.
On the other hand, it could just be totally meaningless. At the beginning of the play, there is an effeminate male dressed in a tutu who dances with a female clown in aboriginal dress. They
proceed to raise two screens that have a multimedia display on them while a veiled female stands removed from the action. Eventually, these clowns dance on a ladder, which is subsequently turned into a mock canoe. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. There is cigarette smoking, wardrobe changes, screen destruction and more dancing. Suffice to say that this review won’t help you understand the
concept—it’s an act that will leave you wondering whether what you saw was awful, entertaining, genius or utterly pretentious.

As a whole, Vogt B treats youto four unique productions that will surely give you a diverse theatre experience. However strange, awkward or enticing the productions may be, the showcase delivers an uncommon and entertaining event that student theatre so desperately needs.

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