“Is the last truth always that we are murderous?”
—Quentin, Act I
Equity Showcase Theatre has conclusively lived up to its name and mandate in bringing about the production of After the Fall, some forty years after its New York première. Under director Rod Ceballos' knowing hand, this dense, near-delirious masterwork is permitted to rant or ramble at will, ever mindful of the circumstances and personalities that indirectly populate every scene, thought and posture.
Not many directors are willing to release so much authority to their charges, but because of that trust, performers are determined to show it was merited. Ceballos knows this and was rewarded by his troupe with a compelling sense of purpose that could never have come from the far too common “art by dictum” approach.
The large, accomplished cast moves comfortably through the play's varied tempi and tones, but from her first appearance at the bus stop, it's clear that Miller has lost again, for Maggie's range of character and delicious descent into madness easily outstrips Quentin's predominance, gripping our hearts in a way her sometime husband never could.
But that result wasn't all because of the writing. Lesley Faulkner so effectively slipped into Maggie's skin, that the lost lines during the pill-prodded, Jack Daniel's-chased annihilation of her unfeeling lover mattered naught: her staggering emotional intensity filled in all of the blanks and left the capacity audience uncomfortably silent; as empty as Quentin's support for another partner, Louise (capably rendered by Jill Harland, who stoically revealed herself as “a separate person”).
With the entirely apt use of the script's “Hello” bookends, Quentin carries the bulk of the intervening drama on his lawyer's shoulders. Joseph Gallaccio was up to the challenge, navigating the persona around, above and beneath him with great conviction. And, as the run progresses, he may well equal the dynamic scope of his most difficult love, perhaps allowing the impact of his confessions—rather than the sheer volume of their delivery—to send their points home.
His black-suit, white-shirt attire was echoed in the atrocities of the era and the primary tones of Lin Joyce's set. With so many snippets of story to weave in rapid fire, the staircase solution worked well. However, as time went on, it seemed incongruous for drinks or linen to be noisily delivered up and down the steps, when the shortest line between front and back of the stage appeared to be an unfettered path around the platform. Still, the careful use of the supporting cast as set dressing worked beautifully, providing visual relief yet permitting the overall starkness to pervade.
Gordon Peck's lighting design was effective, but—with better resources—might have taken on a more important role than the steps in moving the characters in and out of view. Similarly, an upgraded sound system would have permitted the carefully chosen music to underscore the action with primary rather than pastel colourings.
Miller uses Quentin's immediate family to reveal character: Rose Ryan as Mother was steady and convincing in her need to maintain harmony even in the face of financial ruin, where Terry Wells' Father starts slowly (too quick to wail on the unexpected news of his spouse's passing) and Todd Campbell's spineless Dan, makes his roving-eye brother seem manly.
Special mention must be made to David Mackett's superbly high-strung depiction of Lou, who wordlessly demonstrates his tragic servitude in a wonderfully inspired bit of business as, fearing a second chastisement, he stuffs his loud Hawaiian shirt into his shorts, adding extra depth to his black socks and sandals ...
Hovering over the play—like Beethoven's Leonore trying to save her shackled Florestan—is Holga (Pamela Rhae Ferguson, whose affected German accent seems at odds with saying “Magic Flute” in English). Declaiming her birthing dream of an “idiot child” only to later realize that it was, in fact, herself could—at various moments in our lives—readily apply to us all. JWR