Imagine being a theater actor in New York City. You move in, probably with the idea that you will be big since in your high school you were always the lead. You think the world is waiting for you. Then you come here and it dawns on you, every little town had somebody just like you, and most of them are in the same room that you are. Waiting to be seen. At that moment two things happen; you either decide this is your life and you will fight… or go back to the ever-comforting spotlight of the community theaters. So when a huge Broadway production of “Hamlet” is casting and asks you to audition, it might be the one chance to make this adventure valid. Especially when you are the rare twenty-six year old Christian virgin that held onto her beliefs in this unforgiving industry. Big opportunity right?! A dream comes true! But then the play starts and the character meets her partner while he is in the process of killing himself. Jane Martin’s “H20” starts with a soliloquy and a suicide attempt and from there goes on to pay homage to the old bard himself while taking us into a journey to discover the power of faith and lust.
“H20” is a well-written play. Let me say that first. The play has an idea that it explores as deeply as it can without losing itself into the trapping of its meta-study. It’s impossible to watch this play and not compare it to another recent artistic examination of the thespian psyche “Birdman.” While they both take a look into what happens backstage when a Hollywood actor tries to prove himself in Broadway, their differences are vast, making them two completely different sides of the sub-genre coin. “Birdman” is a meditation on your worth in real life compared to the worth that it is portrayed. “H20” is a battle between faiths. It’s a war between the God we pray to and the God we become. It is a fight between ideologies, between love and hate, between righteousness and vulgarity. And the stakes are high. Always high, since the consequences are spiritual and physical death if they don’t listen to each other. “H2O” is the story of Hamlet and Ophelia, if the prince was a blockbuster actor wandering a meaningless path that he sees as pointless until his Ophelia arrives.
The two actors with the gargantuan task of keeping us interested are great to a certain extent. They both put solid performances on stage, but not always together. Their chemistry can be seen and felt in some scenes, while in others it goes missing. Alex Podulke gives us his all as Jake, our tortured lush, but he seems miscast. His character is a lucky big name actor who does not like life or fame, and has grown tired of all of it. The feeling of exhaustion is there, but he misses the aura of a big star. It was hard to believe him as that character because he didn’t feel right as that character. It wasn’t believable. Diane Mair is the opposite. She portrays the character to perfection and I could definitely see the person there, but she didn’t connect to Podulke on stage. Another problem was the way West Hyler (Director) rushes through so many scenes, not allowing silence in the most important moments, barely giving you time to breathe. I know that in theater a silent moment is supposed to be death, but I also think people forget the power silence can carry. A moment to take it all in. This production does not allow those moments to exist, therefore not letting the audience to emotionally relate.
That is not to say that Ground UP Productions‘ production of Jane Martin’s “H2O” is bad. The writing is too good for this play to ever have a bad production, and despite my grievances, I still enjoyed myself very much. The talent is obvious. These people are very good at what they do. The set is simple, yet extremely effective. The sounds create smooth transitions and beats. Every member of this team is a dream, but the production is a reminder that even dreams can’t work perfectly if they do not connect. And sadly there is a connection problem in this show. Jane Martin’s “H2O” will be playing at the 59E29 until December 13. It is worth seeing, as I expect opinions will be diverse for this one and I would love to hear yours.
Our of 4 stars:
*All images via David Arsenault
Twisted Talk: Did you see this production of “H2O?” What was your opinion of the show? Discuss below!