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Randy Hughson in <i>Earshot</i>, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Randy Hughson in Earshot, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Theatre Review: Earshot at the NAC in Ottawa

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Earshot runs in the Studio at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through February 25. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

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EARSHOT, written and with original direction by Morris Panych, is a darkly comic examination of alienation.  The world of Doyle, the lone character, is painfully funny and reflects Panych's sardonic world view. Doyle is cursed with super-sensitive hearing.  He can hear literally everything, from the fall of an envelope to the rattle of false teeth in a glass in a neighbor's refrigerator.  Holed up in his grubby apartment, he can't avoid the sounds of the trivial domestic details of his neighbors' lives that seep through his walls.  Speaking of his unknown love Valerie, this sonic peeping Tom says, "I've never heard such lovely skin."

Ken MacDonald's wonderful apartment set is as skewed as the play.  It's designed with forced perspective including a raked floor that produces an eerie claustrophobia.  When Doyle walks to the back wall, he's forced to crouch like an absurd Alice in Wonderland.  Mr. MacDonald has even managed a sight gag using a costume - also in perspective.  The Sound Design by Derek Bruce for this auditory tour de force is terrific, as is Andrea Lundy's lighting.

Randy Hughson's performance as the beleaguered Doyle is nothing short of amazing.  He's by turns touching, aggressive, vulnerable and very funny. Mr. Hughson delivers his ironic observations with aplomb.  On employment - "There's too much competition in the odd-ball field."  On romance - "Nothing can turn a person off like senile dementia."  And finally on an annoying neighbor - "I thought he was either whistling Wagner badly or Shonberg rather well."

Jim Millan's staging of this revival of the original production is very good.  The production moves at a sharp pace and plays without an intermission.  Earshot seems much shorter than it actually is.

Playwright Panych asks a question that I can't get out of my mind.  Is the essence of life acquiescence?  Let's hope not.  If you miss EARSHOT at the NAC, you can catch it at the Firehall in Gananoque.  The production plays there March 1-5 before moving on to Kitchener and Toronto.

On a scale of one to five the NAC/Crow's Theatre revival of the Tarragon production of EARSHOT gets four and three fourths Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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