FRINGE – Wake – Arcade Lane – 3.5K

Wake is a re-staging of an original one act musical (formally called Problems of Definition – the reason for the title change is unclear) from new Melbourne company, Cryptophasia. The creation of sisters Felicia and Natasha King, it is set in the waiting room of a hospital where Laura (Brittany Lewis) has been waiting for days. It is obviously her own decision to stay there, with doctors encouraging her to leave and her husband desperately trying to get hold of her on the phone (both played by Zachary Alaimo), though the reasons for this are not clear.  As she waits, she meets a range of patients (Andrew Coates) and a young doctor (Charlotte Fox), who are each working through their own problems.

Lewis is superb as Laura. From the get-go she creates a character that is confused, exhausted and deflated, yet still enchanting and powerful. Her voice is pleasant and evocative, easily meeting the demands of the role. Alaimo seemed to lack character or direction as the doctor but redeemed himself more than adequately in his return as Laura’s husband, Dan. In this role he was controlled and grounded, creating a moving portrayal of a man lost but still ready to fight for life.

As the three patients whom Laura encounters, Coates did a good job in creating distinctive and interesting characters, though his vocals, perhaps hampered by the less melodic nature of his songs, did not come off as well. In contrast, Fox appeared to manage the vocal demands of her role the majority of the time but her characterisation didn’t provide anything for the audience to connect with. While some of the solo pieces were enjoyable, particularly those from Lewis, the aural highlight was undoubtedly when all four voices came together to create a wonderful quartet piece at the end.

The disused Arcade Cinema has once again been well utilised to create an atmospheric space. The presence of a live band adds to this and the vocals of the actors echo beautifully in the cavernous room. The purity of the natural voices, without amplification, is pleasing, though at times the band does overshadow them slightly. The writing is sound; however some of the conversations between songs get a little overly-poetic at times, even for the exaggerated boundaries of a musical.  

The minimalist set is interesting. More use could have been made of the peripheral parts of the stage, rather than just having the actors stare out at the audience from front and centre so much of the time. The biggest frustration of the production would have to be the staging of the final scenes between Laura and Dan. As the music and emotions swell, the action shifts to the floor at the very front of the stage; a space which is out of eyesight for a large chunk of the audience. It was bitterly disappointing to miss seeing the actors’ faces as they made their way through this scene. Perhaps those with a better view found themselves more moved.

As a whole, though rather depressing, this is a very rewarding evening’s entertainment.  Because depressing isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there’s a good deal to like about this show.

Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K

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