BWW Review: PARLIAMENT SQUARE at Pony World Theatre
PARLIAMENT SQUARE by Pony World Theatre pulls at your heart and gut but leaves your intellect unengaged. The show is a feast of tension, activism, and drama with a side of emotional manipulation. The story fails to match the actors or design in terms of inspiration and fizzles from lack of specificity.
PARLIAMENT SQUARE is the story of a woman, Kat, who can no longer bear to see the world spiraling downward. She decides she needs to do something big, something to make everyone wake up, something that will finally effect change. She keeps her plans secret and enlists help from no one. Fearing or rather knowing that many will not understand her actions, she mails a letter to her mother explaining everything. As she continues to put her plan into action, she struggles with her resolve and maintains a push and pull of internal dialogue with her consciouness. Ultimately, her plans are thwarted by a stranger, a good Samaritan. Kat is left to deal with the aftermath, to explain, and finally decide if she can reintegrate to normal life or not.
The cast does an admirable job of tackling a show where much is said but even more is left unsaid, unclarified and left to speculation. Caitlin Macy-Beckwith gives a full-bodied performance to a half-developed character. Kat's struggles, pain, and inner turmoil are displayed beautifully by Macy-Beckwith. I can only imagine the extensive backstory that she was required to create in order to find her motivations. Despite the many questions the audience may have, Macy-Beckwith holds your attention, not with force but with vulnerability. Andrew Shanks who plays her husband, Tom, connects beautifully with the story and the audience. Just like the audience, he is on the outside, not in possession of all the facts, not understanding what happened or why. Imani Woodley provides a strong presence as Consciousness. Lisa Viertel as Mum manages to turn tiny disconnected scenes into a very real representation of the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. Miranda Antoinette Troutt as Jo gives us a tiny glimpse into the other side of the mother-daughter relationship.
With so many unanswered questions in the story, the production team provides an interesting backdrop to spur your imagination. Scenic paint artist, Annie Duffiance, has turned the floor into a map of London a la Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The detail is amazing, but only minimally used for effect. Scenic Design by Lex Marcos creates a web-like structure that grows and spreads as the world declines. It is a metaphor for both the circumstance of society and the internal cobwebs that plague Kat. It is interesting, thoughtful, and well executed, especially when paired with the technical aspects of projections used to convey events and passage of time. Direction by Sann Hall embraces the nebulous nature of the script and focuses on the emotion.
The show is completely vague as to the motivations that drive Kat to action probably with the intention to make the story applicable to multiple situations, to hopefully transcend time. However for me, the vagueness of what makes the world so bad as to inspire such desperate action is important. Whatever scenario I imagined, failed the litmus test of making her actions reasonable. In every instance of plausible reality that I conjured, I could name at least a dozen different ways that Kat could have effected change in a different, more positive manner. The audience is left to wonder if she is fighting injustice like Joan of Arc or battling windmills like Don Quixote. In this time when our country is spiking in civic involvement, I hope that people will see the folly of Kat's actions.
PARLIAMENT SQUARE by Pony World Theatre is playing at 12th Ave Arts through November 17th. For more information, visit ponyworld.org.