Last night, I arrived at St. Paul’s church a few minutes before the show time for Wake. As I waited for the show to begin, the atmosphere in the large space of the sanctuary seemed to thicken around writer/actor Nick Amott. The performance was sparsely attended, and no one quite knew what to make of the figure that sat hunched over a piano, backlit by a standing lamp, as he played the same note over and over and over. Our every move as we shifted position released a creak and grumble from the old pews. Then, the light went out, and it was time to begin.
This one-man show shines from all sorts of strange angles. First, the design was quite cool, relying almost exclusively on floor- or desk- lamps (and an iPhone) to light the performance. This came off really well, and made a lot of sense in the context of the inner conflict that plagues Todd Silvano in his struggle for control of his mind and body. In one of my favourite lighting moments, just after the first blackout, Amott uses the terry-cloth robe that’s been draped over a light stand to mimic the sun’s unwelcome penetration of his attempts at sleep.
This moment established the main conflict in the play, where a shadowy voice forces a stubborn Todd to shed light on his life. Amott’s great vocal control and physical presence establish the distinction between two characters at war within the mind of Todd Silvano.
Amott would do well to trust this aspect of his performance a bit more, as he regularly falls victim to his own well-defined separation of these characters. Instead of jumping back and forth between the physical positions of each character when this requires a lot of movement (as in quick exchanges of dialogue between a sitting and standing character, for example), making smaller moves of greater significance would distract less from the content of the discussion. While the bigger movements do make clearer the alliances between each character and either darkness or light, this could still be achieved by rethinking some of the blocking and light placements.
As a whole, the script is very strong, delivering a large range of subjects and tones while pulling them all together into a compelling story. The hilarious dream sequences seem to reflect the sum of a thousand sleepless nights spent absorbing pop culture into this man’s head, and drew big laughs from the small crowd. Amott’s performance also hits some great notes of desperation and sadness as the story unfolds. I thought the weakest part was when we learn about the events surrounding Todd’s high school grad. The dialogue, which up to that point was crisp and real, falls a bit flat, and the huge physical presence of Amott is forfeited to a pair of glow sticks.
I think this play is really good, and though a tad rough around the edges, it has a great chance to improve as the festival progresses. It could easily become phenomenal with a longer look from the directorial eyes Zachary Counsil, who has already provided some “additional direction” to the production.
Don’t miss this show, as Amott’s performance is among the best I’ve seen at the festival.
Upcoming Shows: (BYOV D: St. Paul’s Eastern United Sanctuary)
June 22 @ 20:00
June 25 @ 20:00
June 26 @ 20:30
June 27 @ 21:00
June 28 @ 15:00
June 29 @ 21:00