Collette Suspended: Hanging Lifeless

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Victoria: The words “marionettes”, “rape” and “substance abuse” in the program description of Collette Suspended set up what could be an hour of perverse, torturous performing. Bizarre puppet orgies . . .  dolls with crass mouths and needles in their arms… definitely a clown or two. One could be lead to expect the worst in terms of disconcerting, disturbing theatre.

If only it had been so dynamic.

Where’s Noonan’s production of Tony Hubner’s three person play is less dark or dirty than a primetime TV drama, and essentially plays out like one, lacking any sharp edge at all. Don’t expect it to be clean—there is coarse language, violence, and mild puppet innuendo—but you’ll likely be too confused to be offended.

Collette, Franz, and Robert are stock characters in a stock plot. Collette is suspended between the two loves of her life: her childhood sweetheart (played by a man too remarkably her senior) and the magician they partner with, whom she assists. Major chronological leaps in the plot are difficult to catch and make for a choppy experience. Because the set and costume are unchanging, one has to wait (sometimes too long) for the dialogue to disclose that there has been a marriage, for example. The characters struggle through trite dramatic scenarios which culminate in them—and everyone else—being left cold.

Don’t forget that these characters are puppets. This detail is apparently essential, but never seems to bear any weight. What it does do is add a thin veil of strangeness to the otherwise mundane action. The audience is to understand that Collette, Franz and Robert are puppets because they have clownish red cheeks, oversized cut-out hands and Collette, whose arms are bare, has hinges on her elbows. Also, the actors don’t speak for themselves: their dialogue comes from offstage. (In theory this is an interesting technique for conveying a sense of mindlessness and manipulation. In execution, however...)

First, pre-recorded dialogue can be confusing. Because canned voices from offstage suggest a radio left on or some distant, unimportant speaker, one easily misses the first minute or two of lines while waiting for the "real" dialogue to begin; and once it becomes clear that these voices are significant, one cannot ignore that the actors are doing little on stage but bobbing their heads and waving their limbs in time with their “lines” in what is, on some level, supposed to be a play within a play.

Overall, Collette Suspended has the effect of an amateur theatre experiment. The fundamental idea isn’t bad, but any intended metaphor in production hangs lifeless. There are too many distractions in the immediate picture for the big picture to be of any concern. One would be better off watching kids play with dolls—at least they’d have an interesting plot . . .

For showtime information go here.

By Robyn Cadamia