The Innocents

noah reid and antonio cayonne
Sometimes, especially at independent theatre festivals such as Summerworks and Fringe, I can tell that a play is going to be extraordinarily polished and riveting almost before the opening lines are spoken. That was the case for me at The Innocents, a new play written and directed by Daniel Karasik which plays at the Factory Mainspace as part of the 2010 SummerWorks Festival. This is one play that I think could soon make a smooth transition into a future season at either Factory Theatre or Tarragon.
The three magic elements, the writing, the acting and the direction, are all in perfect balance in The Innocents and each component of the play compliments the whole with perfect synchronicity. Aaron, a young lost soul, has just confessed to the murder of an elderly lady. His lawyer, Stanley, is barely older than he is and knows that Aaron is innocent, yet, he is fascinated by the fact that Aaron would consider jail a favourable option to the realities that confront him in the outside world. As he delves deeper into Aaron’s world, in talking with his friend, Jude, and his ex girlfriend, Jackie, Stanley becomes more fixated on their perceived “normalcy” and, despite his success, his intellect and his education, Aaron, Jude and Jackie’s youthful experiences of relationships, lazy freedom, fun and ecstasy make him feel intensely inadequate.
The issues that the young characters are grappling with throughout Karasik’s play are ones that are rarely explored in art and I found myself not only incredibly captivated by their shrewd perceptions of the inferiority and self consciousness tug of war that each of the characters are engaged in, I was also moved by the complex emotions and vulnerability that I think really captures, in a very intelligent way, how many people in their early twenties interact with one another and experience the world. Karasik’s dialogue and the pacing of the play is also as crisp, immediate and expeditious as a Brad Fraser play, with the action sweeping you up and driving you toward the end without pause or hesitation.
The acting in this play is uniformly terrific. Antonio Cayonne plays Jude, Aaron’s daydreamer friend, who is constantly manoeuvring how to get rich quick in a myriad of creative ways so that he doesn’t have to become some corporate drone or menial labourer. Cayonne infuses Jude with pure jovial faith in his own potential and a serene contentment and charisma that lures the other characters to him. Amelia Sargisson plays Jackie, a sweet girl who seems as lost as Jude is grounded. Sargisson is really fantastic at showing how Jackie draws inspiration and strength, like a sponge, from everyone else around her. Esther Maloney plays Laura, a young journalist who becomes involved with Aaron and reveals that, like Stanley, she is insecure about her own lack of worldly experience. Maloney gives her a wonderful balance of confidence, power and also vulnerability and tenderness. Philip Furgiuele is brilliant as Stanley, who is formidable and admirable in the courtroom, but socially awkward to the point of complete disaster outside of his lawyer facade. Furgiuele captures both Stanley’s endearing confusion about the conventions of interpersonal relationships and his haughty, stubborn coldness very effectively. Noah Reid gives a fascinating and gripping performance as Aaron, a desperate and angry young man with a complex, disheartened opinion of his own potential. Reid really inhabits this character, every line and each arc of emotion seems to genuinely rise from a real place deep in the self conscious spinning of Aaron’s brain or the tender beauty of his heart.
The Innocents is a refreshing portrait of the world of the early twenties told devoid of clichés of vapid bitchiness and drug-induced inanity. It is a story that I think I had been unconsciously waiting to hear for a long time, one that reflects the reality that I know and experience and I think that it does it beautiful, poetic and intelligent justice.

The Innocents plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street) at the following times:
August 12th 10:00 PM
August 13th 11:59 PM- Midnight Performance
August 14th 7:30 PM

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