Actress and playwright Eliza Clark, whose résumé includes playing Jessica Buchanan on TV’s “One Life to Live,” and directing many productions at Yale University, has written some plays that notably lack something, and usually it is information. The audiences are left to decide a lot for themselves while wrestling with questions that are larger in scope than the material she provides. Perhaps, Clark believes in simplistic solutions.
At any rate, the current Tiny Engine Theatre Company production of Recall suffers from the same problem. As with others of her work, according to the reviews that we researched, excellent actors frequently fill out the casts; but their finest efforts can’t fill the gaps which audiences crave to understand both the characters and the issues.
The apparent question raised by Recall is whether potentially violent persons can be identified as children and then somehow removed from society. However, several huge lapses in the plot water the issue down so badly it cannot be gripped. Nonetheless, the direction, acting, and other theatrical elements make this a tense and highly emotional experience. Exactly what genre of theater this play falls into may be an unanswerable question.
The story line concerns a trashy mother with a 13-year-old seriously disturbed daughter, who is given to killing people. They live in a society where such children are “recalled” and dealt with. Somehow, they have been living in an underworld that keeps them out of the hands of the “Recallers.” Along the line, they encounter a young man who protects them and also a fellow troubled teenage boy. They also deal with the person who runs “Recall.”
The set, designed by John Paul Middlesworth and Paul Paliyenko, is very well done, consisting of a sofa on a riser that represents a motel room, and contains an obviously bloodied rug, on stage right. In the center, extending deeply back is a small one-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette, nicely made dark and dingy — eerie looking. Stage left on a higher riser is an office that might be a lab of some sort. There is also a clever piece of furniture that doubles as a lunch counter and gas station display rack.
This set and the entire atmosphere is enhanced with original music by Lenn Cicada, reminiscent of ” Twilight Zone“; and that intensifies the aura of both danger and futurism. Some of the sounds are like small water drippings from the low basement ceiling of a very large old building, giving a sense of vastness and isolation.
Director Paul Sapp helped these fine actors find a lot more meat in their characters than dramatist Eliza Clark gives them bones to hang it on. Also, the delivery is crisp and natural, irrespective of the emotional content. It’s good acting and directing.
Amanda Lee Sherle, as Justine, is met by the audience, in character, pensively awaiting something as the seats are filled. Her presence casts an ominous mood upon the stage. As the action proceeds, her bitter cynicism and flagrant sexuality are easily observed; and her wily survivalism and protection of her daughter are amply demonstrated by Sherle.
Her daughter, Lucy, a voraciously bloodthirsty and hungry 13 year old with empty, staring eyes is no ordinary adolescent as played by Natalie Izlar, a student at the Durham School of the Arts. David, a kindly and reserved young man, who befriends and protects mother and daughter, is sensitively portrayed by Lazarus Simmons.
Gerald Jones III, who was teamed up with Natalie Izlar in I and You earlier this season, also a student at DSA, steals our hearts again as Quinn, a boy on the fringe of recall for a petty offense of little consequence. Jones relies on an unforced quiet power to present the boy who is caught up in the injustice of his situation.
Charlotte, whose relationship to all four is supervisory in a strange way, is played authoritatively by Kirsten Ehlert, as a tense experimenter with obsessive habits. Irrespective of the imperfections of Eliza Clark’s plot, this show is entertaining, often amusing and thought provoking.
SECOND OPINION: March 18th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/recall/Event?oid=4339175; and March 12th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow guest blog by Laurel Ullman: http://artsnownc.com/2015/03/12/tiny-engine-theatre-recall/.
The Tiny Engine Theatre Company presents RECALL at 8 p.m. April 1-4 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.
BOX OFFICE: 919-578-1654 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1315601.
SHOW: Recall and https://www.facebook.com/events/678448858926368/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by beerymedia.com): https://vimeo.com/121368200.
PRESENTER: http://www.tinyenginetheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/tinyenginetheatre, and https://twitter.com/tinyengine1.
2015 SEASON: http://www.tinyenginetheatre.com/season.html.
VENUE: http://www.cgtheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/cgtheatre, and https://twitter.com/CGTheatre919.
Recall (2012 psychological thriller): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/12661/recall (Samuel French, Inc.).
Eliza Clark (Los Angeles playwright and screenwriter): http://www.samuelfrench.com/author/100686/eliza-clark (Samuel French, Inc.). https://twitter.com/ElizaClark (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Clark_%28actress%29 (Wikipedia).
Paul Sapp (Durham, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/paul.sapp.71 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.