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1000 Islands Playhouse Deck
1000 Islands Playhouse Deck

Theatre Review: "Third Floor" in the Firehall at the 1000 Islands Playhouse

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1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque has opened their season in the Firehall, their Black Box venue, with a production of "Third Floor." It runs through August 3 and will be followed in the Firehall on August 16 by the one-woman musical "The (Post) Mistress."

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THIRD FLOOR by Jason Hall, billed as a “rom-com with a thriller twist,” is neither romantic nor a comedy, although it does have some elements of a thriller.  The play, including the title, is an attempt at an homage to Alfred Hitchcock.  It’s set in the hallway of an apartment building, with the doors of four apartments visible.  Although it’s never mentioned, I assume they’re on the third floor.

Jung-Hye Kim’s set is very workable and features panels above for Kevin Tanner’s projections of scenes from Hitchcock movies.  These are used to cover what feels like at least 50 blackouts.  Miss Kim’s costume for the woman is very good, providing constant variation from scene to scene.  Adam Harendorf’s music between the early scenes is very repetitive and electronic, but improves as the play moves on.

The two characters, a man who lives there and a woman who has just moved in across the hall, meet in the hallway.  Their relationship progresses through a large number of short scenes, some lasting as little as two minutes.  This structure is problematic, as although the actors keep up the pace, the chopped-up action makes the play feel very slow-moving. 

Another problem, and it’s difficult to know if it’s the writing, the actors or the direction, is that both the characters are unlikable. The man, played by Craig Pike, displays an irritatingly obnoxious sense of humor and odd behavior that tips off what happens later.  The woman, played by Taylor Trowbridge, warms up to him but we don’t, and her warming makes the character seem very shallow and not too bright.

Director Ashlie Corcoran has allowed Mr. Pike to play too much of the character revealed in the later scenes right from the beginning, so we never develop any feeling for him and any surprise is gone.  She’s also not helped Miss Trowbridge develop a truly three-dimensional character, so we have little understanding of or sympathy for her.  Although the staging is good, aside from the gratuitous nude scene, the play seems to be all plot and not much character.

When the high point of suspense is the periodic appearance of a disembodied arm putting out a bag of garbage, something’s out of whack.  On top of that, there’s no real resolution at the end.  I wasn’t sure it was over.  All in all, neither the play nor the production is up to the standard I’ve come to expect in the Firehall.

On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of THIRD FLOOR gets two and two-thirds dalmations.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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