Monday, April 04, 2011

Review: The Promise at 59E59

It is possible to not enjoy watching a show and still see the value in it. That is how I felt about The Promise, a one-woman thriller by Douglas Maxwell and directed by Johnny McKnight at 59E59. As much as I admired Joanna Tope's performance, I have difficulty with one-woman or one-man shows. My mind is more likely to wander and I miss the human interactions. I know I could have just written a review without mentioning this, but I wanted to explore why I felt bad for not liking the show more, though I personally don't think anybody should have to apologize for their taste. I'd love to hear thoughts in the comments on liking versus admiring a show or any specific examples you'd like to share.

Tope plays Maggie Brodie, a former schoolteacher who is brought in to substitute for a day at a school in London. One of the students is a six-year-old student from Somalia, Rosie, who refuses to speak, and Brodie is appalled by members of the community who believe Rosie is possessed. Tope's performance is fearless in that she is not afraid to delve into her character's demons and show the ugly side of her. At the same time, when she speaks to her students in a soft-spoken but not condescending voice, you can imagine what a good teacher she was. Details such as coats being added or removed from cubbie holes in Lisa Sangster's realistic classroom set and Tim Reid's innovative video projections are effectively used to signal the coming and going of children. Karen MacIver's music is a little too melodramatic and occasionally Maxwell's writing suffers the same fate.

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