Beside Herself: Success?

Actor’s strong performance squandered by length of play

by Samson Schmidt

Long. Very, very, long. Those were the first thoughts that came to mind during Sarah Daniel’s play entitled Beside Herself, directed by Barbara Kelly and performed by the Professional Theatre Program of Dawson College. There is nothing new there, the Dawson Theatre program is known for its extraordinarily long plays. The way of thinking is that everyone in the program needs stage time and must be cast in a role, regardless of their talent, or lack thereof. That is why the directors who teach in the programme are driven into picking lengthy plays rather than just good plays and, as a result, the audience pays the price. However, it wasn’t all bad. The play had its moments, and there were some good, even great performances.

However, it didn’t get off to a good start. The first Act was tedious, tiresome and, most of all, uninteresting. The greater part of the first Act was set in a vandalized group home for psychiatric patients in 1980s London, where a council is assembled to discuss the various patients living in the home. The whole scenario was all very mind-numbing. The highlight and one saving grace of this act was the character Eve, played by Amanda Elsa Moran.  Moran played Eve as a strong, confident, courageous feminist who would not take “no” for an answer. She was classic Punk, with jet black hair, heavy eye-liner, dressed all in black with an Army Surplus field jacket, wore Doc Martens, and had large black spacers in her ears. She looked the part and she acted the part with power and conviction. Every time Moran was on stage you could sense her presence; you could feel the control she had over the audience. 

The role of Eve was double-cast in the play, and in the second Act, Moran was replaced by Katy Breier. This was a dramatic device used by the director to show the utter transformation of the role. Eve in Act 2 transformed from Punk to Pippi Longstocking. From strong woman to weak character. From role model for women to a childish, obnoxious, loud, unstable character. Breier gave a solid performance, but did not own Eve as much as Moran had in Act 1.
If you stuck around for the second Act, the play picked up in quality. 
Alexandria Ruggles was phenomenal. She gave the best performance of the night playing the role of Lil, portraying a very maternal character type. Watching the performance, I could see my mother, and all the other mothers I have known, making the same body movements, and having the same mannerisms. That is what made her performance so wonderful. She made the play into something realistic and believable.

With the good comes the bad. There were a few times when Roy, played by Steve Brisebois, would stumble on his words. However, when Teddy, played by Luca Paveglio,  would switch accents; sometimes he would have a British accent and, at other times, an American accent, which was quite confusing, to say the least.

In the end, despite all my complaints, I would consider this play to be the best play put on by the Theatre Program this year. This does not mean that it’s ready to be performed at Carnegie Hall. 

However, to return to my initial complaint, this play, like many of the other plays from the Dawson Theatre Program, was too long. Or maybe it wasn’t; it just seemed long because of some of the performances. I do not agree with the practice that if you are enrolled in the Theatre program you are automatically given a role in a play with a paying audience. Just like real life, you should audition and earn the role, and if you don’t make the grade, the role should go to someone else. In my opinion, some of the actors in this play did not deserve to be in it.

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