The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 25, 2013

"Fiction” tells the murky truth in Actors’ Summit production

Posted by rdurbin

If you like “talky” dramas, go see “Fiction” that is being put on by Actors’ Summit, a Knight Arts grantee. Unfortunately I don’t, and that’s too bad because the playwright, Steven Dietz, is a gifted scriptwriter.

The language, the references and allusions to literary works and philosophical ideas – these are captivating and can keep an audience member thinking nonstop.

The narrative is a complicated one revolving around a set of diaries that belong to a husband (Michael Waterman, as played by Bob Keefe) and wife (Linda, played by Sally Groth), but includes a third character (Abby Drake, played by Cassandra Capocci), who turns out to be very much the subject of portions of the personal journals.

Actors' Summit, cast of "Fiction." Photo courtesy of Actors' Summit

To distill it down a bit, you could say that the diaries contain kernels of truth as these would-be commercial and artistic writers would say it, but also as much fiction as not. As a case, Michael writes for years in several volumes about an affair with Abby that lasted only a few days.

In other places, the diarists have what Michael’s novel call asterisks, that is, kinds of emotional cliffhangers where the writer reveals something important and then stops, leaving the reader to fill in all the blanks. These characters do that in abundance.

It would seem that this contrivance would really work in a play, especially when Linda thinks she is dying from a rare cancer and the couple take the opportunity to do their versions of deathbed confessions via letting their spouse read their diaries.

Yet the production seemed to have problems. The set was minimal, and that’s generally good. Upstage was a large table that basically stood for the house of the Watermans over several years. Downstage right was a smaller table that represented, among other places, Paris, a cabin in a writer’s colony, and a meeting place. That can work in small theaters, but some sort of reference to place to differentiate where one is would help, especially if it’s to be meaningful. In short, a lot of audio and I needed a dose of video information now and then.

Although the actors did well with such large involved speeches that they had to make (particularly Groth’s intense, determined, put upon, emotionally tender Linda Waterman), they didn’t really seem to go together. At the performance I saw there didn’t seem to be any strong sense of relationship, chemistry if you will, that bound the characters together.

Sally Groth (Linda) and Bob Keefe (Michael) in "Fiction." Photo courtesy of Actors&squot; Summit Sally Groth (Linda) and Bob Keefe (Michael) in "Fiction." Photo courtesy of Actors' Summit

Actors’ Summit puts on quality stuff; maybe this one will develop over subsequent performances.

Actors’ Summit will present “Fiction” on Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through February 13 at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron; 330-374-7566; Tickets are $28-$30.

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