Keep Scratching The Itch Over This One.
It’s always a disconcerting sign when the playwright is also the producer and co-artistic director of the theater company that is producing their own play. The trouble can deepen when the playwright is also the lead actor. Alexandra Zelma-Doring is all of the above in Throes Theatre’s new production of The Itch and it sadly lives up to the expectation that this over-arching involvement generally creates. As was the case in the poorly conceived Come Light My Cigarette, directed by the first time playwright, Arnold L. Cohen, a production without a strong alternate guiding eye can fall in on itself in a muddled and confusing mess. Director Theresa Buchheister doesn’t seem to have a strong enough voice or clear enough vision to drive this vehicle away from the crash created by Zelman-Doring. It careens forward until the play comes to an abrupt end, leaving us to wonder what this disjointed ride was trying to say. We nervously start to clap, hoping that we are correct in thinking that this play is over.
The main problem lies in the disconnected writing that has no sequence of events, nor any cause and effect from moment to moment, and the direction that fails to make sense of it all. Ana, played with a deadening monotone by Zelman-Doring and Simon, played by an intense and eager Gore Abrams, are twins who have spent a lifetime disappearing into one another. Ana wants to sell her eggs for the financial reward, although we don’t know what the motivation is, nor where the problem in this resides. Simon wants another shot at conquering his addiction. Both impulses come off as vague and thoroughly unconvincing, but the more dangerous mechanics are that they don’t seem to resonate with one another. We are told that they are seeking to define their lives separate from one another, but the pair we are shown seem to completely disregard one another and all those around them. They are living in their own fragmented stories from beginning to end, barely engaging in any sequence of thought or personal involvement.
Gore Abrams as twin brother Simon has the strongest stage presence and vocal capabilities, totally over shadowing Zelman-Dorong’s bland disengagement. They don’t seem to hear each other though, nor pay much attention to interpersonal motivation or intent. They blindly drive forward recklessly sprouting lines and scenarios void of realistic emotional engagement, sequential logic, nor any connection to the shabby world around them. Moving around an amateurish yet serviceable set by Matthew Dipple (lightning by Alejandro Fajardo; costumes by Jose Cavazos), the rest of the cast do acceptable work with the disjointed lines given (Erik LaPointe as the boyfriend, Jordan and Coco Conroy as Libby) desperately trying to bring life and meaning to a play that has already crashed and burned. Dan Berkey and Rae C. Wright are video images of the twin’s cold angry one-dimensional parents projected onto the walls of the apartment. It’s an attempt to be edgy and artistic and although done fairly well (video design by George Gavin) the banality of it all can not save the play, The Itch from the collision ahead. It is basically dead on arrival.