The Studio Theatre, located right next to the Sak Comedy Lab and across the street from the TD Waterhouse Centre, is, to put it mildly, an intimate space. So when I made the trip on the same day as a Predators game, I knew all those folks couldn't possibly be joining me at New York Acting Ensembles' latest offering, "Anatomy of an Actress."
To say that Rootie Wilder's play is personal is much like saying the Studio Theatre is intimate. The play seems at times to be so personal that perhaps it shouldn't be viewed at all. The writer/ actress has obviously poured every ounce of her being into the words that make up this story about a woman who is trying to heal her life by fixing the fictitious life she lives onstage. This is a great concept, especially for anyone who has spent time under a spotlight. I must admit that there were certain moments when that healing hand reached out beyond the fourth wall and swirled up pangs of empathy. The constant struggle for artists to keep their real lives intact and healthy is no strange battle. But it's rarely spoken about or dealt with, and neither is the concept of using the work to actually heal one's soul.
In theater, however, words cannot fully take root without the voice to feed them, and this is where most of the production looses its life. The performances, although obviously coming from an extremely honest place, are awkward at best. Some of the actors can barely be heard, some are fixated with looking away in tense moments, and others don't seem to have control of their physical presence. No one ever seems comfortable enough to give a believable performance, and when this piece looses believability, it looses its roots and dies.
There's not much to say about the technical aspects; the space is limited and so are the sets and lighting. It's a good spot, however, the kind of theater where one seems to be climbing into the actors themselves and not just viewing from afar. The price of my admission was only $3 because I was an artist, and that was a surprise, seeing as how there were only six or seven of us. But this did not seem to affect the members who greeted us with appreciation.
The story is truly as intimate as the space, and everyone involved seems to be working from a place of positive creativity. Unfortunately, when not communicated effectively, the anatomy of this piece doesn't include wings and never quite takes off.