Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: It's Friendship, Friendship

By Michael Block

They say college, or university depending on where you're from, is where you can meet the friends that will last forever. That's the source of story in Amelia Bullmore's melodramatic Di and Viv and Rose. Playing the Studio Theater at Theatre Row, Di and Viv and Rose chronicles the lives of three friends over the course of a couple decades.
Written by Amelia Bullmore, Di and Viv and Rose follows the three titular characters as they live their lives as roommates turned best friends turned virtual strangers. Broken into two long, drawn out acts, Di and Viv and Rose tackles the importance of friendship no matter the circumstance. The play by British scribe Bullmore may reach a certain demographic but there was something about this iteration of her script that didn't elevate her words or story. Directed by Leta Tremblay, the production is slow moving. Sadly, it just flat lined, lacking any semblance of dramatic peaks and valleys. While the play felt lived in, the pacing called attention to the unnecessary beats. And that unnecessary beat is the act long epilogue no one really wanted. With the first act clocking in at about an hour and a half, Bullmore’s second act jumps place and time drastically to give snapshots of the crumbling lives and bonds. It just didn’t match the simplicity of the first act. Everything Bullmore offers in the second act could easily be summed up in a few lines prior to the end of the first act and nothing would have changed. We simply just don’t learn anything substantially new. And that’s a waste of writing. The way Tremblay seemed to tackle the script was a blend of 80s and 90s dry television shows mixed with some bad after school specials. That feeling was evoked by the painful transition music from Beth Lake. The sappy mood of the play brought the energy to a strange level. The living room designed by Reilly Horan worked well for the space, forcing the doorway deadspace where the risers end. But the straight on set caused some site lines. Horan’s harsh yellow ton of the lighting was unsettling. It felt like a filter added to a photo.
photo by Sydney Angel
There is breathtaking chemistry and trust on stage. As a unit, the trio kept the story tight. You care about the girls as a trio. But when you hold a magnifying glass up at each individual story arc, they don’t seem to resonate. Whether it was the accents that were put on or the characterizations, something was amiss. As tomboy Di, Olivia Levin was the strongest of the three. Levin’s Di gave a fervent performance finding realism in the character. Raven Pierson’s Viv had a two act transformation. Her first act straight-laced Viv was bland a bit robotic but by the time the character found a new life in New York, Pierson finally infused some spunk into the character. It’s evident that Leslie Erin Roth is an actress who is committed to bold choices. Being able to tap into Rose in the way she did was commendable. But when all was said and done, Roth’s Rose was like an adult version of Cindy Brady. Dim and a caricature.
Di and Viv and Rose is a show for a certain audience. If you’re someone who enjoys simplicity, this show will give it to you. But if a simple story is of no interest, Di and Viv and Rose offers nothing new.


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