Addiction: The Untold Story
There is a certain type of theatre which is known as ‘Therapy theatre’, which is being done for the benefit of the writer, with a ‘meaningful’ message and no theatrical merit or thought of what might appeal to the audience. Addiction: The Untold Story is a perfect example of this unfortunate genre.
There is no mincing words: This is a terrible play. The writing is stilted and unnatural. The acting is amateurish at best. High school plays are directed with more skill and subtlety. There is an improvised scene which is unnecessary and badly-done, and most of the choices made by both the actors and director is reminiscent of a high school theatre course.
There are voiceovers throughout the show, which are often confusing ramblings in the first person about the definition of addition and then about religion. There is no point to these, and it just reinforces the fact that the director has no idea of how to put together a coherent piece of theatre. There are too many themes in this play for it to have any sort of meaningful impact, and none of the actors are good enough to be believable. They tried, at least, but one actor, Joycelyne Lew, had an especially jarring performance (with an insultingly fake – and unnecessary – British accent). Lew spoke each line with the same tone and cardboard emotion, and actually gestured with her hands at the audience each time she spoke – like a teacher or school lecturer presenting facts to a class.
The mention of the #Metoo movement was paired with inappropriate physical interaction with non-consenting audience members. The poster tagline: “Become an addict today” is just offensive in a show about the dangers of addiction. The writer/director does not understand theatre or actors. Characters were one-dimensional at best, with no clear characterizations or logical motivation for their actions.
And then there was the gratuitous nudity. Obviously, there is often merit for nudity in plays. However, this amount of nudity did not advance the plot enough to be warranted. Two brief scenes would have sufficed. The character, Mario, was being objectified and taken advantage of in the play – asked to be naked for nudity’s sake – and I had the uncomfortable feeling that the actor was, in turn, being exploited in the same way. The brief female nudity took place in semi-darkness, and was completely unnecessary. If it was an attempt at gender balance, she should have been fully lit. If it was a metaphor for something (the baring of her soul?), it was not clear and was therefore pointless.
The scene changes were awkward, and the music often cut off abruptly. The lesbian characters were represented in a completely one-dimensional way (complete with large cat banner in their apartment). The physicality between the women was not believable, and felt more of how man think two women in a relationship interact than the reality of a lesbian or bisexual relationship.
And the plot… it is a convoluted mess. For example: One character reveals her female fiancee to the cast of her play. Then (according to the voiceover), three full years pass. When the character’s sister walks in on her and her lover, she acts surprised – even though there is a giant banner (beside the cat), of the two women embracing. Even though the cast has threatened to ruin the character and in three years, the news about her being gay did not come out publicly. I don’t know if it was more offensive that we were being expected to believe such a loosely-woven plot, or if the fact that coming out as gay (to an adult sister, in Los Angeles – which isn’t exactly a bastion of conservatism), is being treated as a cardinal sin. And that is only one (of over a dozen examples), of dated and unoriginal writing choices.
The audience looked like trapped beasts throughout. The play ran over by five minutes, and everyone was polite enough to stay until the end, which was more than this production deserved. Most plays have some redeeming qualities, however this one does not. It needs new actors, a coherent and completely rewritten script with a clear focus, and a professional director. But in its current form, this play has no place in a professional theatre festival in front of a paying audience.