By Rosie Niven
Every day, we make over a thousand choices. Some choices you make will have little to no impact, but others could change your path forever. What would your story look like if you had made different choices along the way?
This romantic concept is at the heart of Theatre & Company’s production of If/Then, which follows Elizabeth (Jocelyn O’Brien) down two different paths after she makes a simple decision at the park with friends: does she go and check out the handsome guitar player around the corner with her new neighbor, or follow one of her old college friends into a potentially dangerous protest? What unravels is a beautiful examination of fate and the control we have over our own lives, jumping back and forth between Elizabeth’s two stories. While competing plots with the same lead may seem like a recipe for disaster (or at least, an unbelievable amount of confusion), Director Adam Haynes makes clear distinctions between the worlds, and it is evident that O’Brien has worked tirelessly to ensure that her two Elizabeths are varied and motivated by their chosen paths.
Another strength in this production came from Ariane Sallis’ portrayal of Kate, Elizabeth’s neighbor. In scenes where energy and inspiration felt lacking, Sallis’ charisma and vibrancy carried other actors on stage and completely elevated the scene. When O’Brien and Sallis sing solos (supported by Zara Stanton’s seamless 8-piece orchestra), it becomes immediately clear why these two women were cast. Across the board, all lead and featured women brought impressive vocals and strong characterization to the stage. However, it feels that many of the male leads in this production could not match what the women were offering. Many of the notes were flat, and the chemistry between O’Brien and both of her lovers (Levi Burrows as Lucas and Rob Thompson as Josh) fell flat. In a show that romanticizes love and relationships, this flaw was detrimental to the effectiveness of the story. This cannot be said of Dave Collins as Stephen, whose relationship with O’Brien felt realistic and worth empathizing with.
There were many opportunities throughout this production of If/Then for the ensemble to impress us with their clean choreography and harmonized vocals. Unfortunately, it seemed that the choreography was designed for the strongest dancers in the group, and many of the other performers were left to scramble to remember their moves, or recalibrate after knocking into another ensemble member. Not supporting the weakest dancers highlighted the disparity in the performers and allowed no one to shine. Many of the ensemble members also seemed to try and grab their solo moment, belting one-liners that didn’t need to be heavily distinguished from the rest.
Josh Stringer’s dynamic set brought life and depth to the small Lennox Theatre, creating a space in which two stories could unfold simultaneously. This was supported by Mitchell Kroll’s creative lighting design which allowed us to switch between stories without much confusion. The only time these sharp switches became a problem was colourful strobe lights were shone directly into the audience’s eyes for an extended period of time, allowing for a smooth set change but resulting in a lot of disgruntled audience members.
Theatre & Company’s If/Then presents a beautiful story that leaves the audience lost in thought about their own choices they’ve made in life. While the concept and creativity was strong in this production, the two-dimensional emotions left me unmoved and wanting more. I found myself hoping that everyone could just give a little bit more.
Photos Supplied by Theatre & Company
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.