So many of today’s production companies choose to put on “safe” shows—the old standbys that everyone knows and trusts. Even the more daring companies stick a safe show or two into their line-ups, which makes it all the more bold for new company, Common Wealth, to choose a fresh and edgy show for its debut performance. That show, The Innocents, in its United States premiere at Common Ground Theatre, is a fun, bitingly comic, and completely charming masterpiece, one that this new company did absolute justice.
The story focuses on five misguided-in-different-ways twenty-somethings living in Ontario. While it would appear that Aaron (Scott Heath), who is locked away for an out-of-character murder confession, is the most messed-up of the bunch, the story leaves that up for debate. His bumbling, nerdy lawyer, Stanley, brilliantly portrayed by the adorable Matthew Hager, gets more than he bargained for when he takes on the case. Stanley quickly becomes enmeshed in Aaron’s world, mingling with his sweet, slacker friend Jude (Ishai Buchbinder) and his on-again off-again flame Jackie (Alice Rose Turner). He’s also introduced to headstrong, overly ambitious journalist Laura (Hilary Edwards), who brings his intimacy issues and his failings with the ladies into clear focus in an uproarious early scene.
The set design, with pieces all furnished (and for sale after the production) by IKEA, is simple and tight. Carefully-sectioned areas, which mirror the characters’ carefully-sectioned lives, define the different spaces. Quirky music choices fill in the brief pauses in this fast-moving show, and while all of these things are wonderful, the perfect casting and equally perfect performances, no doubt greatly helped by strong direction from Gregor McElvogue and Rachel Klem, are are what this production the awesome experience that it is—hands down, it’s the best 75 minutes you can spend in a theatre.
Filled with references to Twitter and Facebook, the show perfectly captures the aimless desperation that so characterizes 20-somethings in today’s world. Even more so, however, the story is about the walls that people erect between themselves and that often keep them in that isolated and hungry state well into the later years of life.
Common Wealth presents THE INNOCENTS, a new play by Daniel Karasik, at 8 p.m. March 15 and 16, 3 p.m. March 17 and 8 p.m. March 21-23 at 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
The Innocents (background): http://www.tangoco.net/The_Innocents.html (Tango Co. page).
Daniel Karasik: http://www.tangoco.net/Who_We_Are.html (his Tango Co. bio), https://www.playwrightsguild.ca/playwright/daniel-karasik (his Playwrights Guild of Canada bio), https://www.facebook.com/danielkarasik86 (his Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/TangoCo (his Twitter page).