Sunday, October 24, 2004

Far Away (Cleveland Play House)

“FAR AWAY” too far out for most audience members

Caryl Churchill, the author of Cleveland Play House’s ‘FAR AWAY’ is considered to be one of England's premier modern playwrights. She strives to make audiences question their world, their role in dealing with violence as well as political and sexual oppression.

Churchill’s plays are difficult to watch or understand. It is easy to get lost in her words, abstract ideas, and lack of linear play structure.

In most plays, the story line is important. In the 50-minute ‘FAR AWAY,’ which is about a descent into the dark ages, and that tells us Western civilization is slowly sliding into barbarism, the story line is less a straight line that a curve into nowhere. In light of the increase of terrorism and cruelty of recent times, she may be sending the message that no one is getting what they want, and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel to get us there.

Unfortunately, the message isn’t very obvious. As a CPH audience member stated as he dazedly wandered in the parking lot following the show, “What in heck was that we just saw?” A British reviewer seemed to agree when, after seeing the 2000 opening of ‘FAR AWAY’ he stated, “it moves from the real to the surreal in ways I found less than convincing and was prepared to accept.” Another reviewer stated, “there is no disguising the fact that the drama's gloom-and-doom seems both glib and modish, nor is there enough detail in the writing to persuade us to care about the characters."

The CPH cast, Cat Maddox, Matthew Joslyn, Derdriu Ring and Angela Holecko, under the direction of Peter Hackett, were excellent. Scenographer Pavel Dobrusky’s set was outstanding. Robin Heath’s sound design was right on target, and Larry Delinger’s background music was effective.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘FAR AWAY’ is an abstract play which is hard to decipher and will leave most audience members frustrated though it is well presented at the Cleveland Play House. Churchill's response to the new century, it seems, is to stretch our belief to confusion point.