Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Accidental Patriot

Photo/Carrie Leonard

Having so enjoyed Kinderspiel and Commedia dell'Artemisia, the last two plays by Stolen Chair Theatre Company, it pains me to write this less than positive summation of Kiran Rikhye's The Accidental Patriot. As part of the company's CineTheatre Tetrology, the play mimics the swashbuckling genre of film, and while it gets the raucous energy of the large-scale swordfighting down, it loses something in emphasizing the melodramatic dialogue, and throws momentum to the overboard with a few sea shanties too many. The point where I draw my cutlass is that director Jon Stancato, in his efforts to remain faithful to the movies, replicates close-ups by pausing the action, bringing the actor into a center-stage spotlight, and having him continue from there as the rest of the cast carries on as if nothing's changed. The effect is artificial -- more alienating than Brecht -- and it bleeds over into the rest of the show, from the forced emoting to the by-the-numbers blocking. I get the intention, but I don't appreciate the result, and I spent most of the show hoping for an accident to force the actors to actually play off one another. I thought I'd have my opportunity when Liza Wade White, the ingenue, tripped over a sword while rushing to kiss the patriotic pirate (Cameron J. Oro) who had just revenged himself against her father (David Berent). Unfortunately, she didn't miss a beat. I go to plays to get away from such stoic theatrics, the unflinching resolve that celluloid captures so well; I was disappointed to find that The Accidental Patriot aspired to so little.

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