Inis Nua Theatre Company presents the American premiere of Love, Lies and Taxidermy by Alan Harris. It’s a little Welsh love story about two marriages that are falling apart and two teenagers who are falling together. It is an ode to taxidermy, that “most optimistic” of gruesome hobbies, as the taxidermist must believe “there is nothing that cannot be fixed.”
The theater has been configured so the audience surrounds the stage. As the lights go down, there is a magical moment when spots linger on the various life-size stuffed animals mounted on walls and standing around the room: a bear, a stag’s head, a fox, a turkey. (Brava to Amanda Jensen, who designed the lighting, and major props to Avista Custom Theatre Services, which provided the props.) The trouble with this seating configuration is that the actors often have their backs to part of the audience, who can’t understand what the two young actors are saying. This is made especially difficult as they are using Welsh accents and all play multiple characters, sometimes confusingly so.
Francesca Piccioni and Joseph Teti play the teenagers, and Seth Reichgott, a consummate professional, rounds out the cast playing both fathers; he throws in a Polish accent for good measure, which allows for some sociopolitical commentary about how immigrants see living in this small town in Wales. But I kept feeling I should like these characters more than I did; they seem cartoonish and often startlingly cruel; how on earth would sweet, earnest Valentine steal his impoverished father’s savings?
Gestures as well as dialogue are sometimes narrated as characters take turns reading what sounds like a screenplay aloud (there’s a plot point involving shooting a movie, which never yields as much meaning as it should). The actors perform, sometimes by miming, sometimes by speaking, what is being told to us; if the play were straightforwardly performed, it is so slight it would probably take about 20 minutes.
Tom Reing’s direction has the actors moving constantly on the circular stage, around and around, but the resulting effect is oddly inert. Taxidermy is a dangerous metaphor.
Love, Lies and Taxidermy
- Through March 4 at Inis Nua Theatre Company, Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks St. Tickets: $25-$30. Information: 215-454-9776, inisnuatheatre.org