It is less common than you'd think to see a piece of new Canadian writing that is as highly stylized as Sean Dixon's The Orange Dot. Borrowing a structure from Beckett's Waiting For Godot and Ionesco's The Lesson, Dixon has created a world which is not as it seems, in which inane conversation and repetition, two classic absurdist techniques, are made to seem normal, until suddenly they aren't. Discussions of pop culture and daily city life, the back and forth banter of Joe and Nat, seem like an inane play at first, leaving the audience wondering why they are bothering, and yet we stay, we watch. Slowly the world starts to crumble, and the inane begins to be more clear, but by time we realize it is happening, things are well off course and deep into the absurd.
That is the thing that is most difficult about the absurdist style. How can the shifts away from normalcy be clear and concise, and yet not telegraph to the audience what lies ahead? This debut production, directed by Vikki Anderson, struggles somewhat with those shifts. The early shifts out of the recognizable world and into the absurd were less clear in my view, than they ought to have been; rather than causing the audience to begin to question what they are watching, they served to contribute to confusion. It is a delicate balance to manifest the verfremmdungseffekt I believe is central to achieving this in a production, and at least in the performance I saw, it wasn't quite there.
That said, overall the performances from Shawn Doyle and Daniela Vlaskalic were quite good, with Doyle standing out until the final moments when Vlaskalic came into her full and truthful range. Earlier scenes didn't always link up from a stylistic perspective, with Vlaskalic putting on a folksy overdrawn accent that she shifted in and out of throughout scenes. Again, I think this comes down to clarify of the shifts in the world of the play; some finer subtlety in these shifts would have helped to enable the audience to think about the play and the message more clearly, rather than simply wonder what was going on in these moments.
Definitely a script worth seeing, and the difficulties i list above are likely to be worked out through continued performance as the production settles into itself later in the run.