Writer: Jaki McCarrick
Directors: Colleen Clinton & Lily Dorment
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The Pond Theatre Company’s latest production, a world premiere of The Naturalists by Jaki McCarrick, promises naturalistic contemporary drama. It delivers on that promise with a well-crafted family drama defined by the 1979 Massacre at Narrow Water. Set years later, the unravelling of a family and the reaction to mistakes made decades ago provides substantial tension to drive the four-person cast through the action.
John Keating and Tim Ruddy as Francis and Billy Sloane, respectively, are grounded in the fraternal bond that serves as a lovely solid foundation for their performances. The addition of Sarah Street’s Josie disrupts the stagnant order of life in the mobile home the brothers have been sharing for the eighteen years they’ve meant to renovate and repair the family house up the hill. Chika Shimizu’s set is beautifully detailed and encapsulates the stuck-in-time feeling of the Sloane family.
The potential for an explosively gripping show is present, with a strong script and compelling performances, but in this particular performance, the direction felt slack. The advertised one-hour-forty-five-minute run time was overshot by nearly another forty-five minutes, leaving the total time spent in the theatre at just under two and a half hours. The stakes that playwright Jaki McCarrick has built into the script are high and tangible, and though the acting by the strong ensemble is formidable, the production tends to lack a luster that seems to be bubbling just below the surface. Blackouts between scenes add quite a bit of time to the production, and toward the conclusion of the play give the sense of two to three false endings.
One hopes that the unfulfilled potential of this performance was a fluke. It is early in the run, it was a rainy matinee Sunday. Perhaps circumstances were stacked against the play’s energy on this particular day. With such great potential, this play might still deliver more, further into its run at Walkerspace.
Runs until 23 September 2018 | Image: Richard Termine