Audience: Mario Perez
Clarissant, an original play in its world premiere as presented by Little Candle Productions at the Atwater Village Theatre, is a mix of some very fine acting with some mediocre and confusing acting, but a much better ratio of good to bad than is the standard with many small Los Angeles shows. Even those actors who were not fully on their game had strong vocal quality. Never once in the show did I struggle to hear or understand anything. The script and Arthurian fantasy plot was very engaging. Written by a historian who has spent many years researching these legends, you could feel a genuine love and interest for the subject matter in the story. That transfers to the audience and gains our interest as well. The minimal set design was creative and worked very well for the small space. A stone castle wall with glittering gold lights was particularly effective as was a ragged tapestry dangling in torn shreds center stage. But, speaking of the space, there were some issues specifically related to the venue, which I am given to understand is the smallest of three theater spaces at the Atwater. First off, the sound/light "booth" is in the corner of the audience without any sort of curtain or separation and the light from it was a distraction when much of the stage was dark (which was often). The raked seating is also not quite raked enough to allow the audience to see a lot of what ends up staged sitting/kneeling near the front row. There were a lot of people shifting left to right to try to see those particular moments. Given the audience rake is preset, the staging really ought to have been modified. Finally, the seating is pretty uncomfortable. It sneaks up on you, but within an hour I was pretty desperate to stand up and do some strecthing. Back to the performance aspects, one thing of note is that this show had an entirely female cast (except one) and most of the actresses played multiple parts. I have to admit I had a little difficulty with the double casting at times. Actresses who were very distinctive in appearance and vocal quality playing multiple roles became a bit of a distraction at times. I understand this was probably budget related, but I would have preferred to see the lead roles not doubled up. Some fine performances would have carried even more weight if they had been a little more distinctively separated from character to character. The only other issue with the show I had was related to the movement design and the fights. The action sequences were staged and performed terribly (no sense of drama or story telling and no sense of physical danger) and when the women playing men were fighting the vocalizations were very female indeed. This was a major problem. I'll end the review with a bit of praise for several people in particular: Linzi Graham, Karissa McKinney and Olivia Choate stood out in particular in their roles, making some good choices and staying convincing throughout. The costumer Betsy Roth did a lot with very little. And the set designers Kate Woodruff and Allison Darby Gorjian were also very effective, as mentioned before. Overall a bitter sweet production. I am glad I saw it and if I hadn't caught it right at the very end of the run I would have been happy to recommend it to a few people who would have found aspects of the show very interesting. The end result was that I left feeling a definite desire to see the play staged again in future, just with a few different choices, a proper fight choreographer and a better budget. I would also like to see more from this company in future. There's room for improvement, but they have a good base of talent and creativity which I think could yield some wonderful theatrical experiences.