Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Love of Three Kings (L'amore dei tre re)
Deborah Zoe Laufer's Informed Consent, in a Tampa Bay premiere production at American Stage, is a fascinating piece about the exploding field of genome research and how it may affect people's lives. The storytelling has a modern bent with a variety of scenes, some emotionally wrenching and some that are devoid of emotionalism. This is partly due to the wildly different emotional levels of the characters in the story. Clocking in at a short 95 minutes, it held my attention and left me with important things to think about.
Five actors play numbered roles and only Juliana Davis is confined to a single character, our protagonist Jillian. She plays this part effectively, mostly devoid of emotion, all science, little heart, until the end. Jacobi Howard as Graham is her emotional opposite as her husband. This playwright seems to subscribe to the concept that opposites attract. Graham is warm teddy bear/daddy bear to their daughter Natalie, who is played by Dana Segal. Ms. Segal's more important role is Arella who helps gain the confidence of her tribe so that JIllian can study them. Also in the cast are Richard B. Watson and Melanie Souza.
Fine acting by all can only mean fine directing by Mr. Ismail. This is obvious on many levels beyond the fine performances. A play with many scenes and many locations can often become unclear, but Mr. Ismail effectively uses the set's varied playing spaces to keep locations crystal clear. The scenic design is amazingly effective. The audience walks in and the set is cold and ultra modern; we know immediately that this story is going to be taking place in the present. With the use of some of the most effective projections (uncredited, Mr. Fox again?) I've seen in a long while, the set accommodates the varied emotional levels of different locations (Jillian and Graham's home, The Grand Canyon, various college offices). Lighting design by Dan Covey, including much that is incorporated as part of the set, is also a major piece of the production's overall effectiveness. Costumes by Scott Daniel help define the characters but are not the most vivid element of this production.
Informed Consent lives up to any expectations I had walking in. Next up, after the annual musical in the park (Hairspray) is The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar. I am glad that Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte is choosing more challenging fare and I hope audiences respond favorably.
Informed Consent at American Stage Theater Company through April 9, 2017, at 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg FL. For more information, visit www.americanstage.org.
Director/Sound Designer: Benjamin T. Ismail