Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: A Show DOA

Love and death. Thematically they have a history together. They are once again paired together in Jonathan G. Galvez's A Life TBD. Broken up into three scenes, A Life TBD chronicles the love of Mark and Maggie as they each face a brush with death. Galvez decided to experiment with his production by having three different directors take on the three individual scenes. The reason being, though the same characters, Galvez has written the scenes in three drastically different styles. Unfortunately, it was a failed experiment. With three different visions and approaches, the love narrative told a story not intended. The love narrative was not strong enough to prove their adoration. By the time you reached the end you had to wonder do we really care? In the first scene, we see Mark in a stick up at a bank. Galvez breaks reality and has the voices in Mark's head recall his one true love in what could be his final moments. But the way director Paul Morris had Maggie, referred to as Her in this scene, was almost dead-like. She had no tone or personality. It didn't seem logical for Mark to project her in that state. Especially seeing as he does not know what is to come and, well, this cannot be the vision of the woman he truly loves. And it hurt Maggie’s narrative for the other two scenes. In the second scene, directed by Kristen Keim, we focus on Maggie and her struggle with reality. This piece barely recognizes Mark as a player in her life or mind. Her mental health is the secondary character in this story. By the third scene, Galvez gives us a scene that is realistic. The duo meet to potentially rekindle. The problem was Prerna Bhatia's direction did not match the style at all. If the scene was natural, the theatrical light shifts cannot occur. And if naturalism was not the intent, then the three scenes were in fact the same style and did not need three directors hurting the overall vision and arc.
photo by Stephanie Yvonne
With three approaches to the story, you could see the internal battle within the acting company, primarily Matt Sydney and Julia Yarwood as Mark and Maggie. Sydney's Mark was unfortunately very passive. The fight for Maggie and connection between the first and third scene was lost. Mark needed more ferocity to win the heart of the girl who helped him fight off death. With the struggle from the first scene, Yarwood had to battle elements that Galvez gave her character. The rest of the company was relegated to background, making the most of the situations of support.
Galvez, who also served as sound designer, made a very interesting and potentially fatal choice in design. Part of the second scene involved Maggie having a choice over. And it was very clearly not Maggie’s voice. So why have a voice over narrated by someone else? If the voices in her head are no physically present and they are not here, shouldn’t there be a clear cut reference to it?
A Life TBD is a very confused piece that needs some guidance. Maybe with a single director and a dramaturg, the production would be very different.