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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 36
Fantasy Swan crashes into reality
Arts & Entertainment
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Fantasy Swan crashes into reality

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Swan
Artattack Theatre
Through September 25


A swan crashes into a picture window and changes everything. Wouldn't it change everything if it happened to you? This is the premise of The Swan by Elizabeth Egloff, now being presented by Artattack Theatre.

Dora Hand (anyone want to postulate, post-viewing, on the meaning of her name?) is a bored, somewhat traumatized woman who has been abandoned by several men, one of whom killed himself the day after their marriage. She is a self-confessed "marriage junkie," so maybe she doesn't have the best radar for men's integrity. However, she has become comfortable as a kept woman by married man, Kevin. Kevin seems to be able to manage a wife and child and Dora, even as his wife apparently is aware of the whole thing.

One night, a swan crashes into the window. Dora hauls it inside and it lays in a possible coma for a time. Dora and Kevin try to determine what to do for it. Then the swan wakes up, inexplicably, as a man. Dora dubs him "Bill." Bill must learn human ways, but has the heart of a swan (swans mate for life) and loves Dora. Kevin finds himself outmatched by Bill and his needs, and perhaps due to unexpected competition, decides to finally commit to Dora and divorce his wife.

Artattack's production stars Tracy Leigh as Dora, Martyn G. Krouse as Bill, and Daniel Wood as Kevin. As directed by Selby, it is a competent production, but could use some energy in its pacing. Leigh is a very watchable actor, which is fortunate for the production, since she's onstage almost the entire time. The play gives her some extremely difficult problems that the script does not solve. Why would she stay with boring Kevin? Why does she keep hanging up on her girlfriend, not begging her to come over and help? If the animal is possibly dying, why isn't she dragging it to the car to take to an emergency vet?

There are problems created by the staging that are not answered, but could have been: Why does Dora decide to quit her job, and why now? She does not appear to be taking much care of Bill, although that's the implication of the script. In fact, the production itself could have created much more of the subtext that the script leaves out. Suddenly, a vegetarian creature, the swan, is eating meat? Implication: humans crave and eat meat. But that transition is missing in the play.

Krouse does a lovely job of moving and sounding like a swan. He shows a moving emotion as he tries to cope with his physical transformation and learn about his new world. However, his love for Dora is muted. Justin Lockwood's sound design is a great support for the bare production, with outside sounds giving more life to the play.

The play's short scenes don't help to explain anything. We're left with this enigmatic fantasy, where Bill learns to wear suits and somehow speak Italian after learning to speak English through poetically reciting phrases heard from others and from the ever-present radio.

It would have been nice to see Dora's delight at Bill's growing ability to manage the human world. Instead, in this production, Dora just seems too stunned to help and too confused to know much about how to help Bill. So, the ending is not a fulfillment and a satisfaction, it's almost a surprise.

Having said all that, part of what Artattack does well is choose plays that are edgy and somewhat challenging, focused on questioning society's attitudes and asking us to think. This production serves the small company well. For more information, go to www.artattacktheater.com or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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