Directed by Joanie Schultz
At Next Theatre, Evanston
Talky one metaphor two-hander wears us out
South African playwright Craig Higginson wants to explore interracial relationships from an international point of view so he has a Black Frenchman get English language lessons from a British white female living in Paris. This situation has promise but Higginson has his two characters bogged down by overuse of corrective English rhetoric from Celia (Carrie A. Coon) to her pupil Pierre (Austin Talley).
This drama is a talky, slow-paced and an unbelievable contrivance designed more for Higginson to reveal his thought about race than to be a viable relationship drama about two souls searching for their personal identity and their place in the world. Pierre is motivated by his need to master the English language since that skill will allow him to fit in in French (and the world’s) society.
If we are to believe that there is a subtle sexual attraction why there is no sensual stage chemistry between the stiff and stilted Pierre and the blandly calm Celia? The endless grammar corrections grows tedious and dilutes from the formation of any emotional or sexual tension. Pierre, we learn, has sort of stalked Celia after seeing her at a Parisian museum. But I saw no emotional heat coming from Austin Talley’s Pierre toward Celia.
Add the blandness of Celia who without warning or set-up confesses her secrets to Pierre. I never once felt that Celia would be sexually attractive to the passive Pierre. It seems that playwright Higginson wants to show how two troubled and emotionally damaged folks can find connections despite their racial baggage. But I never for a moment believed these two have any deep connection. Pierre hasn’t the needed bad-boy image that a hip Londoner would be attracted to. The play feels forced and mechanical. The slow pace and the lack of enough dramatic tension made the 90 minute one act plow on as more of a grammar lesson than a relationship play with something to say. I got bored since I neither related to nor cared for either character. Next Theatre has mounted an impressive body of work over the years so I’ll forgive this inert work.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 29, 2012
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At Next Theatre at the Noyes Cultural Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, IL, call 847-475-1875, www.nexttheatre.org, tickets $25 -$40, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through February 26, 2012