On the Razzle, Constellation Theatre

Once upon a time, I tried to read Tom Stoppard's On the Razzle but gave up in frustration. Too many jokes, too much cleverness of the cloying sort. Even as I put the book back on my shelf, I held onto the hope that if ever I SAW the show, what was tedious on the page might find life on the stage. So imagine my excitement when I saw that Constellation was doing Razzle- rapture! Here was my opportunity at last!

Unfortunately, I was left feeling largely underwhelmed AGAIN, and after hearing peals of laughter from others in the audience all night, I started wondering if I should write a review from the "It's not you, it's me" stance. That seems to be such a cop-out, however, so instead I have to trust that it's understood between us that you're only ever getting my impression anyway and I'm happy to have you feel differently. Ok, not always HAPPY, but I promise not to judge YOU if you don't judge ME. At least not out loud. FANTASTIC, MOVING ON.

I also wondered Saturday night if I just didn't grok farce. But again, I don't think that's the issue and I don't want to wimp out because I AM A FOR SERIOUS HARDCORE BLOGGING TYPE PERSON AND WE DO NOT SHY AWAY FROM THE TRUTH HERE ON THT. Because I DO think there's an underlying problem with Constellation's production and I think it's to do with the company's entire approach to the material they've chosen. The worst thing that an actor can do with farce (or any comedy, really) is play it in a way that says, This is funny, aren't we clever? Again and again, it felt like the actors (a talented bunch! they were committed, all on the same page and those are HUGE marks in their favor, accomplishments not to be shrugged at) were ever-so-slightly stepping back out of the world they were creating, too self-conscious of the absurdity of it all. As a result, the jokes fell flat for me.

I DO want to point out a few good qualities before I'm accused (Vous m'accusez!) of being entirely unfair. A.J. Gubin's set features a revolve that director Nick Olcott uses to great advantage throughout the evening, keeping transitions fun (although I could have done without the pieces from the actors during these sequences). Kendra Rai's costumes are great fun and I maybe wanted to try a few on myself. Ashley Ivey and Matthew McGloin are Very Good Indeed as the central characters of the play, with McGloin in particular the standout performance of the night (seriously- he's FANTASTIC). When Ivey is joined by Heather Haney, the two generate some excellent comic chemistry that likewise lifts up the production.

Constellation prides itself on tackling the big stuff (I'm sure they have a better way of phrasing that), and you can't deny that a farce with a cast of thirteen is mighty big indeed. It's something I would never try to tackle myself and I commend their effort. But overall? I was left unconvinced and if not entirely unamused, I was underwhelmed.


I'm glad to hear someone else finds Stoppard cloying. I can think of only one or two plays of his that aren't self-congratulatory of his cleverness. It's such a burden...

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