Critic throws play out with the bath water

Rocking The Cradle by Des Walsh, freely adapted from Lorca’s Yerma. Directed by Richard Rose. Starring Kate Corbett, Monica Walsh, Didi Gillard-Rowlings, Jane Dingle, Greg King, Ruth Lawrence, Darryl Avalon Hopkins. Until Dec. 13 at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave, 416-531-1827,

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good tearjerker.

Moody, sad — dare I say it depressing productions are some of my favourites.

I find they showcase true acting chops, forcing actors to beef up what they learned in theatre school by not only relying on music or dance numbers to carry the show.

Ideally, dark productions also leave a mark on the theatregoer, forcing them to question what they saw and the complexities behind it.

So when I read that Des Walsh’s Rocking The Cradle was freely adapted from Spanish poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca’s tragic drama, Yerma, I was excited.

Even my date for the night, who usually prefers concerts or a night out at the movies, was game.

But boy, were we in for a disappointment.

While Lorca’s Yerma is set in a sunny Spanish village in the Andulusian region, where the characters are as full of life and passion as the weather itself, playwright Walsh’s adaptation is set in an isolated fishing outport in Newfoundland during the 1960s.

The play centers around Joan (played by Newfoundland actor Ruth Lawrence), whose sole desire in life is to have a child.

But after two years of marriage to Vince (Darryl Avalon Hopkins) she remains the only childless woman in the small town.

At first, her friends and mother do their best to solve the predicament, offering tips on how to get pregnant.

However, when it becomes clear it isn’t Joan’s problem, but Vince’s refusal to have a child, the once-happy wife quickly falls into a deep depression.

The one-act show incorporates East Coast music, with the cast of seven offering up their singing voices throughout the production.

Like its predecessor Yerma, Rocking paints the picture of a desperate woman who can’t get what she wants and goes mad vying for it.

Still, like the many fishing nets that make up the town’s livelihood, there too many emotional holes in Walsh’s production. I didn’t feel enough passion was bought to any of the roles.

When actors shouted in pain or hummed a traditional Irish melody, no real, relatable emotion was evident in their actions.

It was if they were saying all their lines but without any substance to back up the dialogue.

Many problems also lay in the fluidity to the production.

Instead of each scene flowing flawlessly from one to the next, it was choppy and uncomfortable to watch.

The strengths of Rocking, and yes, I believe there are some, are the set and lighting design by Graeme S. Thomson.

Miniature, gingerbread-sized houses, lit up for Christmas, surround the stage.

The lighting is soft and muted, with brown and dark-green undertones, which I felt evoked the era in which the play is set.

But I would have liked to view a heart wrenching production. And Rocking failed me.

Even my date shifted uncomfortably in his seat at times throughout the production, and it wasn’t because the subject matter was too difficult for him to digest.

Instead, he was bothered by the lack of emotion brought by the actors.

We had hoped Rocking would evoke the pain one woman suffers in her longing for a child.

Sadly, we were given the subject matter but no meat of the matter to fill us up.

About this article:

By: Lorianna De Giorgio
Posted: Dec 2 2009 11:04 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto