Review: The Dark Room (Socratic Theatre Collective)


The Dark Room – November 3rd to the 13th at Unit 102 Studio – begins with what may be a scene from an adolescent slumber party.

We see a few actors in repose on and around a bed onstage, when one starts telling a story.

Before long, the players are acting out characters. And we see snippets of interaction between them.

The tale ends on a gruesome note, and marks the first of eight scenes / sketches that make up The Dark Room.

Though the text explores subject matter from the darker realm of the supernatural, what struck me right off the bat was how bright the tone of the show was.

That first story, titled What Goes Ha, Ha, Ha Plop, came across to me as, for the most part, a light-hearted montage. What we see, in rapid succession, is a young couple dating, falling in love and having a life together, which includes a few kids.

Moreover, that story’s tidy structure – for example, the young man in it, who enjoys coaching a soccer team and helping at an animal hospital, has kids, one that grows up to coach soccer, another to work at an animal hospital – and frenetic pacing – no segment in this story’s sequence seems sustained for more than ten seconds – lent me the impression that playwright S. R. Kriger and director Liz Bragg were intentionally flirting with a campy style of theatre.

But, because The Dark Room works in some heavy material – a young woman talks with her dead twin in a scene titled In Memoriam and in another, Warm Hands, a woman tries to engage with what seems to be a traumatized little girl – not a lot of laughter is elicited in the later part of the play. (The latter kept reminding me of The Sixth Sense, for what that’s worth as a gauge of humour.)

So, I was left in a sort of limbo while watching The Dark Room.

It’s cool that Ms. Kriger and Ms. Bragg want to put on a show that switches up the style and mood of the material as it moves along. Any show that includes scenes, like the Hitchcock-esque Wrong Number and the Sartre-esque Jeopardy, deserves praise for its ambition.

And each scene is superficially different.

Something Rotten, for example, has an articulate interaction between a man and a ghost in conspicuously outdated British English. Eurydice is filled with references to Greek mythology, so it seems classical. Also, it includes a very cool three-headed dog puppet.

But, as an audience member I just didn’t feel steeped enough in the material of each scene to develop a connection with what was going on.

Putting aside what I thought was the overall herky-jerky structure of The Dark Room, and just looking separately at each component of The Dark Room, the show is pretty impressive.

The five-member cast, which includes Dave Heppenstall, Lucas James, Margaret Legere, Amanda O’Halloran and Laura Vincent are immediately likeable. And the staging by Ms. Bragg, which revolves around a bed, is, at times, innovative and overall Ms. Bragg has her cast sprint across a vast amount of theatrical terrain, in terms of style, without any stumbles. And technically the show is pulled off seamlessly, which is credited to Diana McCallum as stage manager.

Undoubtedly, The Dark Room, produced by the Socratic Theatre Collective, has many merits, but it just didn’t draw me in.

Details

The Dark Room is playing at Unit 102 Studio (376 Dufferin; the venue is just past Milky Way – sort-of an alleyway – and is quite non-descript – the door is unmarked save for posters for the show), and runs until November 13th

– Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM

– Tickets are $15 (and pay-what-you-can on Tuesday and Wednesday)

– Tickets are available at the door