The Bedroom is by the far the worst venue I have yet to view a play in. The low ceilings provide for terrible sightlines, especially for those not in the first few rows. This also creates really atrocious lighting angles. I’m not sure why, but the acoustics are as bad as I’ve run into as well. I can’t imagine any play coming off well in this venue.
None of this, however, excuses Harmony from the criticism I must throw at it. Though Harmony is a student-written play, originally produced at William and Mary, this is a public performance, and I write for a consumer-oriented site.
Director Matthew Sonnenfeld calls the play one of his “most shining memories as a director,” and I could see why a director might enjoy the production, with its intimacy and dialogue. I cannot , however, see audiences enjoying it at all. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure exactly what I saw when the play ended.
The plot surrounds two women: Regina (Amelia Bane) and Tanya (Alexandra Kelly) who ended a difficult relationship with The Man (Eric Molly). Another woman—Isabel (Chelsea Reba)—offers wisdom and spiritual guidance to these two women who still view each other as rivals.
Where can such a story go, in the real world or on stage? Not far at all. Stories are about change and growth; this play has none. No further events divide or bring Regina and Tanya together; nor do we see more than a single flashback to the relationship each woman shared with The Man.
Without this hindsight, I find it impossible to identify with the protagonists. Each considers her breakup difficult, but why? They complain of “lies,” but what did The Man lie about? This play refuses to so much as allude to such wrongs. What is Harmony then, but a play about aftermaths?
Perhaps I would feel more sympathy for these characters had the actors shown any depth. But instead, I saw a group of players not into their roles. They seemed more like actors in a workshop reading lines the first time through. Simple inflections, changes in vocal tone and other emotional cues that seem natural with the dialogue were missed time and again.
Jacquie Harris wrote this play as a dream, and in this dream state, the characters speak poetically. But much of the dialogue is purple, and bullied by its meter. Instead of character-building we get poetic metaphors about Diana, goddess of the moon, and other mythological allusions. There is surely a message about empowerment and survival in there, but I lost it in all the allegory.
A play is not a toy for any member of the production. A play must bring the viewer into its world, not push her away. Though the situation in Harmony is something we all know and understand, its other elements shut us out.
Harmony has 5 performances, ending July 28, 2012, in The Bedroom at Fort Fringe, 610 L Street NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Steve rates this 1 out of a possible 5.