Nov 24

Noise Fails to Compose a Strong Narrative

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Noise is a musical for deaf and hearing audiences. Which basically means that it’s telling is complex while being quite simple. The ability to hear isn’t of importance as an audience member, as the narrative is communicated through various mediums.

The play has multiple story-lines, that are introduced segmented through the first half of the production. The play opens to projections on the screen of a conversation about ASL, with a play on the concepts of sign language vs age/sex/location. We then are introduced to Dr. Julie Marcson (Robyn Mackie) who is a deaf physicist who teaches at the University of Calgary.  She is at conference, giving a talk about the soundtrack to space. How space isn’t actually a vacuum of silence. It has major vibrations and she speaks about how there is more to sound than what you can hear. We are then in a club and we meet Kim, (Justine Nguyen) who has a cochlear implant. There are three other stories that filter into the narrative. The story of Julie’s family, her daughter Molly (Rachel Ayer) and son Aidan (Robert Morrison) and husband (Kris Demeanor), and how they interact has a hearing and deaf family unit. There is the story of Skye (Rita Fields) a deaf protestor at the Occupy Movement 2012, who employs translator Pam (Karen Johnson Diamond) and also the story of Brian (Brent Podesky) and Samantha (Sylvia Niederberger) who are both hearing and meet online. Finally, there is the love story between DJ Mills who has lost his hearing (Justin Michael Carriere) and Cassandra (Kathy Zaborsky), and a physical presence dubbed in the program as The Darkness, played by Allison Zwozdesky.

Keeping up? To say that there a lot of threads in the narrative is an understatement. And they all related in some way or another, to sound or hearing or noise. The first half spends its time setting up these relationships and telling fragments and pieces in multiple ways. Those stories then come to loose resolutions in the second half. Noise explores all of the stories through vibration, music, projection, movement and text. It makes for slower than usual storytelling, though the multiple elements adds a richness to the production.

Kris Demeanor’s musical direction and composition is bang on at points and totally misses the point at others. His lyrics are great but the style of the music at times doesn’t match the emotionality on stage. Though having live music is a wonderful element in Noise.

Verb Theatre’s use of the Big Secret Theatre is commendable. The space is barely recognizable and the staging for this play is innovative and creative. T Erin Gruber’s video projections are a little slow for text, but otherwise do a good job of grounding the locations of the play.

The overall problem with Noise is that the ends don’t tie up enough to create a fabric of narrative that is compelling. There are too many holes, too many questions, too many fragments. It says in advertising for the play ‘A nightclub DJ loses his hearing but finds his soulmate.’ It isn’t clearly communicated that he lost his hearing, just that he can’t hear.  Kim’s storyline about her cochlear implant doesn’t seem to add anything to the overall narrative. She’s just here with a cochlear implant. And the occupy scenes seem misplaced. Noise is exploring a movement that is over a year old. Though the idea that people who want to create change politically just fall into background noise is somewhat depicted (though this reviewer did note Kris Demeanor’s Turner for YYC shirt that does not belong in the middle of a professional production on stage), the storyline itself is a too juvenile to be compelling. Zwozdesky’s The Darkness seems to depict DJ’s mood and there is an understanding that stories can be communicated through movement, but this element is not well done. Zwozdesky just seems to be there to add that element to the play, instead of communicating richly and theatrically through movement.

There are moments of comedy and light throughout the play. Mackie does an outstanding job depicting her sadness in one scene and Diamond is charming and funny as interpreter. Noise tries to be an interested and intriguing exploration of narrative without the ability to hear. But it doesn’t pull the threads together enough to be a successful exploration.

Noise runs from November 22nd - December 2nd at the EPCOR CENTRE’S Big Secret Theatre. Tickets are available at the door or online.
(Two and a half out of five)

Photo credit to Justin Michael Carrier


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