The Talented Mr. Ripley at Round House

Director Blake Robinson has achieved what I thought was impossible. He has cast four of the best actors working in DC, Karl Miller, Marcus Kyd, Naomi Jacobsen, and John Lescault, and managed to create a thoroughly boring night of theatre. The Talented Mr. Ripley, which just closed at the Round House Theatre, is a very misguided production.

The Talented Mr. Ripley tells the story of con man Tom Ripley (Karl Miller) who ingratiates himself into the lives of others, most specifically wealthy young American Richard Greenleaf. Ripley because obsessed with Richard Greenleaf (Marcus Kyd), so much so that he decides to take over the man’s life. It’s a story that should be rife with tension. Unfortunately this play by Phyllis Nagy, adapted from the original novel by Patricia Highsmith, misses the mark. It relies too much on monologue, and takes too long to get the plot off the ground. Scenes bleed into one another, most of the performers play multiple roles, and no one seems quite sure what style this play is supposed to be.

The set, designed by Narelle Sissons, is over-weighty and too obvious. The stage is crooked (like our protagonist, perhaps?) and a huge watercolor fills the background while another painting, Gerard de Lairesse’s "The Judgment of Midas” creates a roof. There is a pool of water at the edge of the stage, and its use seems rather spurious. It’s far too much set for a play that should be presented as an intimate thriller.

The sound design (Matthew M. Nielson) also hurts the production. Every time a scene is creepy, we hear creepy music, and so on. Instead of intensifying the tension, these choices only serve to diffuse it.

The production just isn’t exciting because all the elements are trying to hard, dictating to the audience what our response should be, instead of just letting us simply connect to the actors. One scene stands out as an example of what the entire play should be, when John Lescault plays an Italian detective interrogating Ripley. There are no bells and whistles, no underscoring, just two actors connected to each other and pursuing their objectives. That scene is tense, that scene is thrilling, would the rest of the play was as well!

2 stars


Popular Posts