If your faith in actors as physical storytellers has waned, let 3 Dark Tales restore it. This new piece - it's not exactly a play - celebrates the talents of its performers above all else.
Though 3 Dark Tales looks meticulously rehearsed, there's a certain improvisational quality to it. The whole show has an off-the-cuff attitude that suggests the show's performers - Sarah Coxon, Lucien MacDougall, Carolina Valdes, and Joseph Alford (who also directed) - could do most of what they do here before breakfast, and not miss a step.
3 Dark Tales is, for the most part, fun to watch, primarily because of the performers, each of whom works devilishly hard. At times, they almost seem like machines, going at full speed for almost the entire ninety minutes of the show, providing a bevy of sound effects as a complement to the frenetic movement that pauses only briefly while the stories change.
Each of the stories - none credited in the program with an author - stands alone, both in style and plot, though each deals with getting what you want from life before it's too late. "Dream On Mr Tibble" is told mostly in only slightly recognizable English, with familiar words breaking through the chaos of Tibble's every day routine. The other two pieces, "The Unfortunate Predicament of Amelia Sas" and "Frank's Wardrobe" have more comprehensible dialogue, but employ movement, almost to the point of an energetic dance, in presenting their narratives.
But that's one of the show's biggest problems: a lack of consistency. There's no build to the action, nowhere for the show to go after its first manic scene. "Dream On Mr Tibble" is so striking that the severe energy dip in the second story, about a woman's choices when she learns she has 30 minutes left to live, is almost too much for the show to take; the third segment needs energy it can never reclaim. Because of this, after the first five or ten minutes, watching 3 Dark Tales becomes almost too wearying and bewildering an experience for its own good.
Still, 3 Dark Tales is a tremendously theatrical production, thanks to the performers and Eva Vilamitjana's choreography, frequently indistinguishable from Alford's direction. The simple scenic design (Isla Shaw) and the lights (provided by performer Coxon) contribute to the atmosphere of improvisation, never seeming out of place on their own.
When 3 Dark Tales allows itself to lighten up, it's fascinating and very entertaining. While the performers shine brightly, the show's dramatic inspiration is too dimly lit.