REVIEW: Annapurna

unspecified-2Sometimes after seeing a show I need to chew on it a bit.  A good night’s sleep sometimes helps; sometimes its just some quiet reflection.  Other times its subconscious processing that finally leads me to a solid conclusion.  This isn’t a reflection on a show’s quality as much as it is how it hit me in the precise cosmic moment in time that I saw it.

ANNAPURNA required a couple night’s sleep and a whole lot of chewing.  And I still haven’t figured out why.

The script is fine. It’s probably a little long – or maybe a little short.  It’s funny but not overly. Or maybe not enough.  There’s a lot of unspoken history. Or maybe there’s too much exposition.  It’s a tough show all around.

Dennis Parlato plays “Ulysses,” a reclusive poet who lives in a filthy trailer alone where he waits on twelve-dollar royalty checks from his first bestseller.  His ex-wife, “Emma” (played by Regina Pugh) shows up and invades his world uninvited.  For an hour and forty minutes we slowly unravel their love story and possibly rekindle it before we’re done.

As we’re accustomed, the set is outstanding with a level of detail rarely seen in any theatre.  Sharr White’s script has some nice moments but overall I left wanting more.  And a little less, too.

There’s interesting chemistry between the two actors; Pugh is such a cognitive performer.  You can tell she’s put so much thought into her work.  Parlato, on the other hand, seems more existential.  This divide in approaches works well with the material and I enjoyed the acting work very much.

What I didn’t care for was the laborious way we learned about why Emma left Uly in the first place.  That’s not the production’s fault; they are saddled with a script that draws out the drama and milks every ounce of mystery without much of a payoff.  Thankfully, though, director D. Lynn Meyers keeps has incorporated enough stage business to keep most of the audience attentive throughout.

ANNAPURNA is an interesting character study; but its just maybe not interesting enough.  It sits somewhere in the middle of everything despite taking place in the middle of nowhere.

ANNAPURNA runs through April 10th at Ensemble Theatre in Cincinnati.  Click here for more information.