Writer: Alexandra Zelman-Doring
Director: Theresa Buchheister
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Ana and Simon are twins, though it’s never mentioned on stage. There’s an almost incestuous nature to their relationship, but that’s neither explored in the present nor explained by the past. The Itch is a sort of memory play, taking place at indistinct and potentially nonlinear times, but that’s only clear based on background reading at the Throes Theater website. This production at New Ohio Theatre is best seen as a work in progress.
By populating the stage with live actors and music, video projections, voice-overs, and pre-recorded soundscapes, writer Alexandra Zelman-Doring (who plays Ana) and director Theresa Buchheister split audience focus with, at best, no discernibly useful outcome, and at worst, unnecessary distractions. Video projections of Dan Berkey and Rae C. Wright, as Ana and Simon’s parents during a family dinner, may be used in an effort to drive home the lack of connection between generations, but are noticeably less effective than the tension that can be created and the distance that can be felt between live actors sharing the same physical space.
Other projections appear to be wholly unrelated to the onstage action and may be intended to be seen as flashbacks or the inner workings of a character’s mind. In addition to the two upstage walls used as projection screens, there is an analog television set that lives center stage and occasionally shows old commercials and other vaguely distinguishable clips.
Simon is an alcoholic, and Ana wants to sell her eggs to help pay for his rehab. In this production, Ana is pregnant. This may be an effect of the actor’s “real life” on the character, rather than a purposeful character description written into the script, because the pregnancy is not mentioned once, by Ana, Simon, Ana’s boyfriend Jordan (Erik LaPointe), or Libby (Coco Conroy), the employee at the fertility clinic where Ana interviews. And that’s not the only piece of this production that’s lacking clarity or seems to have been glossed over in the rehearsal process.
It would be fascinating to see a stripped-down theatrical version of this play, without any of the non-live media to distract or fill holes. There is the potential for deeply resonating drama in these characters, but it’s all shielded behind the frills of multimedia. Getting down to the human roots of this story could be just the development exercise, or exorcism, it needs.
Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Walter Wlodarczyk