Review: Easter (Naught Theatre)

Naught Theatre brings Easter, a story of a family’s misfortune, to The Box Toronto

easter

It didn’t take long to understand why The Box Toronto was chosen for Naught Theatre‘s production of August Strindberg’s Easter. A play that focuses on the shame and misfortunes of a family unit, Easter felt at home in the malleable black box, the space providing an intimate ambiance for us to be drawn into the suffering of the Heyst family.

Plagued by the debt of the family patriarch who now spends his days behind bars, the Heyst’s spend their Easter holiday dreading the arrival of Mr. Lindkvist, the man originally swindled by their father who now has a claim on their home. The son Elis, a professor and proud man who has taken on the responsibilities of the head of the family, returns home for the holiday to clean up the financial mess that his father left.

The show left me a little bit torn, as I can’t say I was a huge fan of the text itself. Strindberg’s play felt somewhat overwrought and a little dated at times, with some of its themes not quite carrying over as gracefully. I did, however, think the performance was well thought through and well executed.

I was especially enthralled by Stephanie Seaton who plays Elis’s sister Eleanora, an enigmatic young woman who is overly sensitive and especially religious. Seaton’s Eleanora is passionate and earnest, and she speaks Strindberg’s words beautifully, truly bringing to life director William Rasitsan-Powell’s poetic vision of the play.

Addison Becker as Elis’s young ward Benjamin is a formidable joyful counterpoint to Eleanora, with the two providing the play’s only source of heart. I think it speaks volumes when two characters can stand on stage for an extended scene, say absolutely nothing, and still hold your interest. The dynamic between Seaton and Becker was palpable and I think more successful than that between Mathieu Bardan’s Elis and Eva Barrie’s Kristina.

Margaret Hild as Mrs. Heyst also stood out to me as the mother of the household, performing the subtle airs of a woman foggy with shame and despair, in denial of the crimes her husband has committed. In contrast, I found Bardan’s portrayal of Elis to be a little bit inconsistent, without much variance between the way he delivered his lines. Elis seemed to get nervous or riled up very easily without much emotional lead up in between.

I think the pace of the show must have been difficult to direct, and while some portions did feel sluggish and unnecessarily weighed down, I think Rasitsan-Powell did an admirable job with the rest.

The Box Toronto is one of those interesting spaces that comes with its own soundtrack, so don’t be surprised if you hear strange thumps or knocks that might not be part of the show’s sound design. The aural atmosphere built by sound designer Tim Lindsay paired with the music provided by Matthew Goldman did compliment the soundscape of the space, adding a welcome extra layer to the performance.

I’m sure I missed some interesting connections with the Easter holiday as the play’s backdrop, but fortunately I don’t think that detracted from my enjoyment of the performance as a whole.

I can’t say I’d recommend Easter for everyone, it is rather gloomy and on the slow side of things, but I do think it’s worth keeping an eye out for Naught Theatre‘s future endeavours.

Details

  • Easter is playing until May 3, 2014 at The Box Toronto (89 Niagara)
  • Show runs Saturday at 8pm
  • Tickets are $12-$18
  • Tickets are available online or at the door

Photo of Mathieu Burdan and Eva Barrie provided by the company.

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