nytheatre.com review by Julie Blumenthal
While bolstered by a pair of strong performances and some fascinating
ideas, Synesthesia, despite its title, fails to come together.
August 15, 2003
In playwright Lance Tait's mystery, a female academic and a male detective debate love, passion and music theory in an interrogation regarding a mysterious pair of murders. In a classic game of cat and mouse, the investigator leads the seemingly distant and uninterested professor through a maze of possible motives, gradually revealing both her inner passions and the mystery's solution. The interrogation grounds itself in the concept of synesthesia, the idea of "sensory fusion" that brought forth many of the formal musical breakthroughs, including Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, or "total artwork", of the 19th and 20th centuries. What could be the connection between these murders and this theory?
Unfortunately, this highly compelling premise goes largely unfulfilled. Tait, who also directed, has woven a potentially complex tale of passion, theory and art; but both his text and his direction suffer from a lack of clarity. Despite committed performances from Stephanie Campion as the academic and Damian Corcoran as the investigator, Tait fails to tie together the numerous rich concepts and insights he introduces. The intriguing notions are many: the links between music and madness; the effects of music on the human soul; the idea of human experience as a necessary part of artistic composition. However, these concepts are introduced and then left unexplored in favor of a storyline which, compared to these rich ideas, feels unrewarding. In the same vein, directorial choices leave the dynamic potential for tension and character development under-examined. As a result, the twists of the story, and its successive revelations, feel both unjustified and anticlimactic.
Tait clearly has a strong sense of suspense, a penchant for exciting ideas and a high regard for the extraordinary powers of music. With some tightening and clarification, Synesthesia would be an excellent forum for all three.