Friday, January 23, 2004

Raised in Captivity (Dobama)

'RAISED IN CAPTIVITY' disappoints at Dobama

I was among the original group of local thespians who left Euclid Little Theatre and followed Don Bianchi, Barry Silverman, and Mark Silverberg and into a new theatrical adventure to become known as DOBAMA. The name has no mysterious meaning. It was simply the first two letters of the guys first names (DOn, BArry, and MArk).

Therefore, it is painful to watch a production at this theatre that is poorly directed, and is generally poorly acted. Unfortunately, Nicky Silver’s ‘RAISED IN CAPTIVITY’ fulfills these negative criteria. It is also painful because Dobama has become the shining light of the off-Broadway-like professional theatres on the North Coast.

The play starts with a brother and a sister reuniting at their mother’s funeral, after several years of not seeing each other. It follows the problems of the siblings, which includes a ghost from the past that reveals some secrets, a psychologist who blinds herself out of guilt, a husband who runs off with the psychologist upon the urging of his wife, a several month old baby who walks, and new level of understanding between the siblings.

The play, according to its author is about "guilt, redemption and self-punishment.” Yes, there is guilt and sorrow, but who cares. The characters don’t earn our empathy.

Our lack of feeling is somewhat strange since The New York Times said that Silver’s dialogue “skillfully juxtaposes the banal and the outlandishly whimsical. New York Magazine referred to the NY production as "....funny, original, imaginative and possessed of a furious energy that makes it spin like a top....full of wittily prickly lines and riotous exchanges, and it uses the stage in splashily irreverent ways that can be exhilarating."

So, what’s the problem here? It lies purely on the shoulders of director Russ Borski who appears to lack any insight into what the play is all about. It is the responsibility of the director to set the tone for the production and guide the actors in achieving the playwright’s intent. On this count, Borski fails. No one in the cast seemed to know how to develop their character. In spite of this, there were some funny moments, but far, far too few and any meaning that might have been present evaporated in a pile of confusion and lethargy.

Not only was the cast lost, so was the audience on opening night. They didn’t seem to understand or want to understand the goings on either as shown by the number who left the theatre at intermission.

Credit has to be given to the cast consisting of Tyson Postma, Tyler Postma, Sean Derry, Juliete Regnier and Jeff Staron. They really tried to pull it off. The odds were just too stacked against them.

CAPSULE JUDEMENT: Every theatre has some good productions and some weaker ones. It hurts to say it, but ‘RAISED IN CAPTIVITY’ must go on the list of one of Dobama’s weakest moments.