Klondike Winkle is sleep inducing
May 09th, 2014
RIP! A Wrinkle in Time
by KC Brown
Axis Theatre Company
April 30 – May 17
Oh, dear. The major emotional response to RIP! A Wrinkle in Time, the final production of Wayne Specht’s 38-year run as Artistic Director for Axis Theatre Company, consists of feeling sorry for the actors who are in it—in particular, Simon Webb, who last appeared in an Axis cast in 1978.
Now there would be a premise for a Rip Van Winkle storyline. Gifted comic actor wakes 36 years later in an unfunny mish-mash—the first original Axis presentation geared towards grown-ups in ten years—and he can’t possibly imagine how Axis could have steered so disastrously off-course.
Ostensibly after a year-and-a-half of workshops, KC Brown has revived the Rip Van Winkle legend with a Yukon gold rush tale that shifts back and forth between 1897 and 2014. Gold seeker and family man Randal Irving Parson—RIP for short—gets lost in the snow, sort of. On stage, he is grapped and kidnapped by malevolent ice spirits who deposit him into a snow cave of sorts, like some marauding gang of KGB agents in toques.
RIP’s great-great grandson, played by Webb, is also named Randal Irving Parson. We meet him as he nervously escorts a very tall visiting lady through Parson City, a present-day Yukon settlement inexplicably named after the ancestor who disappeared.
There is a makeshift bar in Parson City in both eras, the main set piece on a mostly barren stage. One of the locals at the bar in 1897 is Frenchie, also played by Webb, with a thoroughly fake French accent. The bar maid in 1897 is that same tall woman who plays the 2014 love interest, Tara Travis. Randal Irving Parson in 1897 is played by Stefano Giulianetti.
That leaves Annette Devick to play both the man-in-the-moon—who is, of course, a woman-in-the-moon—who sometimes talks to the characters. At the outset, Devick climbs a makeshift tower of four chairs to mimic the moon. It’s not exactly Cirque du Soleil, but it’s one of the few moments that merit the description of Axis as a professional physical company. In 2014, Devick also appears as a freelance filmmaker working for an oil company, selling her soul in return for a possible film centre.
Evidently all the characters in Parson City have sub-normal IQs to match the sub-zero temperatures. Only two-thirds of the way along does somebody question why they can talk to the moon. There is no answer. Anything goes. The playwright inserts possible connections to the Franklin Expedition. It takes a long time before the resurrected Rip Van Winkle character asks any basic questions about how and why 2014 is different from 1897. His recognition of the passage of 149 years is restricted to a few questions about a cel phone.
If only RIP! could be dismissed as child’s play. But neither kindergarten simple or adult smart, it’s almost two hours of personality-less prancing, mincing, shouting and over-acting with on-the-nose humour, sledgehammer direction and an inane storyline—an evening of theatre beyond approach.
There are strange things done in the midnight sound by the men and women who moil for comedy. When the unfrozen RIP suddenly and inexplicably appears, the modern RIP suddenly realizes nobody has ever worked the original land claim from 1897. Eureka. There could be gold. There could be oil. There could be an ending.
by Paul Durras
PHOTO: Simon Webb (left) and Stefano Giulianetti. By Pink Monkey Studios.