NSTF Review: The Apology

Toronto – Apologizing isn’t a big part of The Apology, running now as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival at Factory Theatre. In fact, while the characters continually jump beds, make grand statements and have melodramatic arguments about politics and polyamory and parenthood, and leave each other, come back, then leave again, the only thing they really don’t do to each other is apologize.

The Apology is a quasi-historical, fictionalized sex drama featuring Mary Shelley, most famously the author of Frankenstein; her lover, and later her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley; her half-sister Claire Clairmont; and romantic poet Lord Byron. In this story, the four young idealists decide to leave behind the trappings of England and their high society parents and run away together to write, do drugs, wax poetic about their visions of utopian society and have lots of sex with each other.

Sure, it’s sexy. It’s occasionally rather funny. It’s tragic, and it’s melodramatically over-the-top like an episode of Gossip Girl. The four actors are very, very good, particularly David Beazely as the smoldering, bisexual Byron and Sascha Cole as the ditzy, sweet Clairmont.

It’s also quite dense. It’s occasionally a bit confusing. It’s heavy-handed, and the relentless tragedy to end it off gets a bit tiring. Darrah Teitel’s script feels almost like it’s too smart for it’s own good, particularly when the characters deliver lines comparing the creative process with having children and monsters. In a “playwright’s note” in the program it says that anarchy and feminism are the “twin pillars of this play,” but feminism seems to only really come through the sexual liberation of the two women, and anarchy doesn’t seem to fit in at all, unless having sex with multiple partners is anarchy. The clothes seem to indicate a modern setting for Shelley and her 19th century peers, as do talk of photos in the tabloid newspapers and book launch parties, but it’s hard for the show to work as a period piece when you remove the characters from their time period; in other words, running from the Victorian era-values of their home lives and only communicating with the outside world by letter makes a lot less sense if they’re not actually in the Victorian era.

Still, the acting is quite good, and the on-stage chemistry between the four is worth the price of admission. If you’re turned on by on-stage nudity and almost-sex, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. But as a piece of theatre, it’s just ok.

The Apology runs Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week as part of Next Stage. Check their site for details and ticket info.

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Posted on by Brian in Everything, Fringe, Reviews, Theatre

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