Theatre Review: Speaking in Tongues

There's fun in figuring out how the 10 characters played by four actors are connected.

The fun in the Belfry's production of Speaking in Tongues is finding out how the 10 characters, played by four actors, are all connected. Review by Elizabeth Marsh.

The fun in the Belfry's production of Speaking in Tongues is finding out how the 10 characters, played by four actors, are all connected. Review by Elizabeth Marsh.

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000167 EndHTML:0000004693 StartFragment:0000000454 EndFragment:0000004677

The funny thing about Speaking in Tongues, now on at the Belfry, is certain things stayed with me, though I have my issues with the play. I doubt the set design or costumes will win any awards if only because an apparent bias against modern costumes, and the set, while well designed, is nothing close to the spectacular piece of art seen last years in And Slowly Beauty (also at the Belfry). Still, the one thing I kept coming back to was how well the set and costumes suited the characters. Both these items made them seem familiar and mundane, but in a good way. There is a lot of drama in this play, some of it well done, some of it a little far fetched, but these characters are nothing special. They are ordinary people, living their ordinary lives, with a mixed degree of happiness. In short they feel real, and yet Speaking in Tongues suffers from an affliction that dogs many a prime time television drama; the so called normal-ness, or relatability, of its characters is undercut by the fact they experience certain events that are out of the realm of ordinary (or even plausible). I’m not referring to the second part of the play, which deals with a missing wife. Sadly, people go missing, and just because most of us, thankfully, never experience the loss of a loved one in that way, does not mean it doesn’t make for compelling drama. My real problem stems from how in trying to show we are all connected, it has certain characters meet up at certain times, or engage in certain relationships, that asked more of my suspension of disbelief than I was willing to partake. It veers a little too close to soap opera, and it’s to the show’s detriment.

I’m being intentionally vague about specifics, in part because the fun of this show is discovering how all the characters, -ten in total, played by four actors – connect to one another. I knew nothing about this play going in, and though I have since learned you can easily find out how John of the second act, connects to Pete of the first, all I can say is it’s best to avoid the synopsis in the program and let it unravel naturally before you. I liked how there were parts the actors intentionally spoke over one another, and even delivered the same lines. Most of the play has different scenes playing out concurrently, which was surprisingly easy to follow, and helped to highlight the relationships each character had to one another. At times, it was genuinely funny to see two very different characters deliver the same lines (they’re not so different after all) but the ending is weak. It plays into the whole idea of it ultimately being better to trust those around us, even strangers, though people by their nature are bound to hurt one another, but asking me to believe a particular connection between three of the second act characters seemed lazy and melodramatic. Something akin to a plot device on Grey’s Anatomy, rather than a stellar play.

None of this play would have worked if not for the actors involved, who all turn out solid work. I can only imagine how intentionally stepping on each others lines might be a little frazzling, and that perhaps is why at times I felt a little lacking in energy or flow, but each manage to make smooth transitions between their various and sometime disparate characters. If the woman of the show, particularly Yanna McIntosh as Sonja and Valerie, tended to outshines the men slightly, I think it had more to to with the fact their characters were more interestingly written.

Overall I’d say the play is saved from itself by what manages to be a strong production, not the first time I’ve seen this at the Belfry. Also, OH MY GOD! That’s the woman from Murdoch Mysteries.

 

Review by Elizabeth Marsh

 

 

Speaking in Tongues runs at The Belfry until Feb. 24

Tickets at belfry.bc.ca or 250-385-6815

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

Most Read