Review: In A Forest Dark & Deep (Ron Leach & Brian Levy)

In a Forest Dark & Deep playing at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace is a production compellingly acted and exquisitely directed

First off, let me admit that I am a huge fan of Neil LaBute. I have read, seen and even been involved in several of his plays over the years, which was why I was excited to catch his latest play In A Forest Dark & Deep in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

In A Forest Dark & Deep tells the story of brother and sister Bobby and Betty reuniting in a cabin in the woods. Bobby thinks he’s simply lending his sister a hand with clearing out her cottage for new tenants. But it’s a dark and stormy night, and his sister has a big secret.

As I entered the space, I was amazed at what I saw. I found the most beautifully constructed two-story cabin filled with books and homey trinkets, and I instantly wished I lived there. Lighting designer Nelson Rogers did such a wonderful job of creating a warm and cozy vibe, which was such a contrast to how the play actually turns out. It’s pretty incredible what the production team was able to accomplish in such a tiny space. There was even a rain machine through which they shone a lamp so that they could cast the shadows of constant rainfall on the opposite wall.

In terms of the writing, I personally don’t think this is LaBute’s best play. I found it dragged on a bit too long and could have been cut down to an hour and fifteen minute package. That aside, I found the production to be quite successful.

Director Robert Vaughn was able to create such a compelling world for these two characters to exist in. I thought both Jennifer Gibson in the role of Betty and Damon Runyan as Bobby were believable in their portrayals. In my opinion, Gibson is perhaps a bit too young for this role, however, she still peaked my interest and I found her enjoyable to watch.

My main concern with the staging, was that I found there to be a few pacing issues and, as a result, certain moments were weakened. There were moments where I wished the characters weren’t yelling at each other when they were, and vice versa. It’s difficult to say, however, if this is due to the fact that I found LaBute’s play itself a bit too long, or if this was problem in direction.

That being said, I truly feel like I’m nitpicking. This was definitely an enjoyable and entertaining experience at the theatre for me. It’s definitely worth checking out and I recommend this to anyone who likes surprises!

Details

  • In a Forest Dark & Deep is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • Performances run from September 12 – 21 at 7:30 pm with a matinee on the 21st at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $27.50 and $22.50 for students/seniors/arts workers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online at the Arts Box Office or by calling 416 504 7529.