Just for a Moment, on stage in Toronto, comes off as “confusing” and “repetitive”
Should we pursue our dreams over those we love? And if we choose our dreams, what type of person does that make us? Things Falling Apart’s Just for a Moment by Tien Providence, playing at the Pia Bouman Theatre, examines the question of dreams, love, sacrifice, and selfishness by reconnecting two people separated by geography and connected by their past.
Unfortunately, Just for a Moment is not as good as it should be, with a strong emotional core and some cracking dialogue. Instead, it’s more like a promising work in progress still mired in structural difficulties.
In the play, David Philips (Raïs Muoi) leaves St. Vincent and the Grenadines to pursue his artistic career. Fifteen years later he returns to exhibit his artwork only to encounter Monique (Nawa Nicole Simon), the fiancée he left behind.
Let me just say that I love the story, even if some of the emotional twists and turns were a bit over the top. Muoi and Simon are a great team, although it was Simon who stole the show for me. She encapsulates a woman who wants to move on but can’t quite manage it. Simon delivers an intense and nuanced performance that steals the show. Admittedly Muoi as David has a harder time, mostly because I found the character difficult to like. He lacked some of the emotional complexity that was needed to take him from petulant to genuinely regretful.
Together, however, Muoi and Simon create an intense, emotionally challenging dynamic. Just for a Moment is fundamentally about these two characters, how they feel about each other, and how that has hurt them.
Two scenes paint a moving picture of who they are in the present versus who they were. In one, David recounts a prank he pulled on another boy who liked Monique. Muoi takes this scene and gives it both childlike amusement and adult cruelty. Simon, nearby, lets the story wash over her, emotions flitting over her face. In another moment, Monique lets her anger at David fly. Simon takes the rage and lets each word land in a rush, as Muoi backs away in shock at her violence. These two moments sealed the potential of the entire work; intense segments that sweep the audience away in the drama.
But these moments are so far between each other. Tien’s direction and the way his script meanders from point to point ultimately works against the heart of the show. Case in point is the excessive use of long pauses that didn’t feel organic and served to do little more than interrupt the flow of dialogue. Tien has created a story where emotional zigzagging is important and yet the characters aren’t allowed the flexibility to push and pull at these directional changes. Unsuprising, then that when the tempo is fast, the show comes alive and the hits land that much harder.
By attempting to examine in depth the motivations of the characters, Tien’s script also suffers. Honestly, at times I found it confusing and repetitive. Some sections felt like they followed an earlier train of thought that I suspect I was supposed to remember as an audience member, but couldn’t. This meant that a few times I lost the thread of what the characters were talking about — worse, at least once I had no idea why a sound cue played and why the characters responded to it.
Structurally, it hurt both performance and story, yet I don’t think these are that detrimental to the overall work. Just for a Moment is almost there, with its cast and its story, it just needs a little more time.
- Just for a Moment runs until March 6, 2016 at the Pia Bouman Theatre (6 Noble Street)
- Shows run Tuesdays to Saturday at 8 pm with matinees Sunday February 28 and Sunday March 6 at 2 pm
- Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online here
Photo of Raïs Muoi and Nawa Nicole Simon courtesy of the company