© Frank Gale
Jim Parsons, left, and Jacob Bradbury rehearse a scene from "Blasted," Off-Broadway Players of Corner Brook's entry in this year’s Provincial Drama Festival.
“Blasted” by Sarah Kane was an extremely brave choice for a provincial drama festival, even for the Off Broadway Players who seem to have found their niche in the shocking and absurd over the past few years.
Surely many professional theatre companies would shudder at the thought of tackling a show as taboo as this.
Given the uncomfortable subject matter, Jordan Stringer had a very fine line to walk in directing the show. Both the acting and technical aspects needed to be nearly pristine. Luckily for the audience, they were.
Amidst the foul content, a feeling of compassion slipped through that could have easily been overlooked or underplayed.
In the first act, Ian, played by Jim Parsons, is depicted to be a cruel yet human character. He displays few redeeming qualities but it is apparent Ian is going through a desperate time in his life as he is faced with his quickly approaching death. Ian is desperate for companionship regardless of whether this companionship is stolen. This allows the audience to initially peg Ian as a villain.
However, upon the arrival of a ruthless soldier, portrayed by Jake Bradbury, Ian’s role as the villain is quickly stripped. Ian becomes the middle ground between this heartless soldier and the neurotic but innocent Cate, played by Addy Shoichet.
The most memorable moment of the show was without a doubt Ian’s mental breakdown. A series of blackouts flashing into increasingly disturbing moments as his sanity rapidly deteriorates. A soundtrack resembling that of a heartbeat increased the tension in the theatre and fed the knots in the audience members’ stomachs.
Thankfully, the last moment of the play displays Cate preforming the selfless act of feeding Ian, whose life is now completely in her hands. A final moment instilling some amount of hope for mankind is left to consider.
The set, a hotel room in the first act, is immaculate. Astounding attention to detail is found in such aspects as reflective windows as opposed to the bare window frames that are often seen in theatre. This level of accuracy is necessary as the second act is a stark contrast.
This hotel has been caught in the crossfire of war. The walls have been burned, the window has been shattered and every inch of the room has been ransacked. This set change was so impressive that the audience deemed it worthy of applause at the top of the second act as the curtain was raised and it was revealed.
This play may not be for the squeamish, but it was thought provoking. Audience members undoubtedly left the theatre talking about this show, some with a tone of disgust, others perhaps quite the opposite.
One thing is for certain, conversations such as these are an integral part of theatre.
The festival continues tonight at 8 p.m. with “Giovanni’s Women” by School Zone of St. John’s.
Emily House is from Stephenville/Robinsons and is a graduate of Memorial University Grenfell Campus’ theatre program