When you go to a play, you go for the production, the acting, the story, the themes, or some combination of these. If you see plays for the production, go see the Undergraduate Theater Society’s (UTS) performance of ‘Five Flights,’ written by Canadian playwright Adam Bock. If you see plays primarily for the plot, don’t bother.
The story is narrated by a young man named Ed (Andrew Pritzkau) whose family owns a large, beautiful aviary. In the intro scenes, he talks with his sister Adele (Erica Ream) about her friend’s new religion. The actors clearly demonstrated that their characters cared about one another, but the dialogue the script provided them didn’t reveal much else about the characters.
After that, we met the quirky religious founder, Olivia (Kylee Gano). She describes her conversion when she was surrounded by birds and thought she heard the voice of God. She calls her religion “The Church of the Fifth Day,” and it is based around the idea that birds are our guides here on earth. Gano’s portrayal was energetic and zany, with her character constantly moving and chattering about birds.
Olivia wants to use the aviary as a church. This creates a conflict with Ed and Adele’s sister-in-law, Jane, who wants to tear down the aviary, with Ed in the middle trying to mediate over the course of the play. While the idea of this church might have allowed for original commentary on religion, it instead portrayed religion as something ridiculous and strange, building toward a hackneyed and predictable scene where the two argue about religion.
Meanwhile, Ed is courted by a gay professional hockey player named Tom (Joshua Chessin-Yudin). Chessin-Yudin portrayed Tom with a level of intermingled determinedness and nervousness that was nothing short of hilarious — it was the highlight of the play. Through this relationship, Ed tries to deal with grief over past lost love, but then this subplot went through an extremely predictable and boring cycle.
The first scene of Ed and Tom together displayed the minimalist set design well, though. Rather than fancy backdrops or artistic landscapes and props, the crew used human beings miming things to illustrate the environment. Occasionally, these people would step out of their roles as props and physically interact with characters. Overall, this live-action set design was well done.
Despite acting that portrayed emotion believably and creative set design, the end of the play illustrates why people more interested in a good story shouldn’t go. The play reaches its penultimate chronological moment by the intermission, seeming like a conclusion. Ed then narrates that we should go back and see a few more events, which comprises the second act. This entire second act didn’t add much to the themes or show the characters in a new light.
Also, the circular chronology broke suspense. We knew the ending, and the reasons that things happened weren’t complicated or changed much by the later half. While the first act had some interesting moments toward its beginning, the second completely failed, leaving me wondering why it was there at all.
The verdict: The acting and designing are great, but UTS chose a poor story to perform.
Reach reporter Andrew Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AndrewRodgersau
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