Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dragon's Breath

It's a great concept: "the story of a Young Adult paranormal romance writer who accidentally creates a dangerous cult." The cast includes the fabulous Lorinda Lisitza and Hannah Sloat. What could go wrong?

Lorinda Lisitza
Unfortunately, a lot. Michael C. O'Day's Dragon's Breath, awkwardly directed by Mikaela Kafka, offers unconvincing characters, a meandering plot, lame satire, and endless, pointless, dull exposition. There are moments that hint at an interesting, even thought-provoking play, but they are wasted in the empty noise.

The show begins with author Justine Drake doing a reading from her new novel, Dragon's Breath. We learn quickly that she is uncomfortable giving readings and that she longs for physical copies of her book, not just e-books. We learn these facts many times. As written, Justine is a major whiner who weirdly pays no attention to her online presence, even after being told that it will determine whether her book ever sees print.

The people who attend Justine's readings represent one satirical type each and are directed to be as cartoony as humanly (cartoonly?) possible. Only two exist in two dimensions rather than one (no one makes it to three): Rocco, a self-proclaimed dragon expert who picks at every sentence in Justine's books, and Laura, who perceives Dragon's Breath and its sequels to be the genuine word of the dragon gods. It is Laura who starts the cult.

Regrettably, she doesn't start it until about 4 hours into the 90-minute play, and until then we have to listen to Justine complain to her publisher Byron and do readings she doesn't want to do, and complain to her publisher Byron and do readings she doesn't want to do, etc., etc.

Hannah Sloat gives an excellent performance as the fan who goes from shy nobody to high priestess. Lorinda Lisitza does what she can with her illogical, annoying character. The costume design by David Quinn is impressive, and the set and lighting by Gregg Bellon rise above the extreme limitations of the Fringe Festival.

Even after this negative review, I would give a highly rewritten version of Dragon's Breath a chance. The concept remains intriguing, and the better moments are good enough to suggest that first-time playwright O'Day has more talent than shown by the play's current incarnation.

(2nd row, press ticket)

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