By Reena Dutt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 2, 1998

'Scotland Road' dead in the water


Photo courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Emily Grogan as "the woman" and Francesca Jarvis as Frances Kittle in the Invisible Theatre's production of "Scotland Road."

What rhymes with "panic" and grossed over $274 million in five weeks? What else - "Titanic." This tale based on the ocean liner's collision with an Atlantic iceberg over eighty years ago has maintained a position as a nationwide obsession. Aside from being the subject of a movie, the story of the Titanic has moved to the stage as well. Last year, a singing, dancing variation on this story was all the rage on Broadway, securing sold-out box offices and a Tony award. "Scotland Road" is another Titanic-themed play, now on stage at The Invisible Theater -but don't expect this production to bring home the awards anytime soon.

Here's the story: a woman, played by Emily Grogan, is found on an iceberg, dressed in nineteenth century clothing. Ending up on the front page of a tabloid magazine, she has little idea that the man (James Blair) who has taken her to an old gas station, now a doctor's office of sorts, is trying to prove that she is lying about her past on the Titanic, instead of supporting her.

The set is built with a simplicity that brings out the actors' performance. Set Designer James Blair reduced the props to a white stage, a porch chair, and an additional wooden chair, varying within the scenes. The woman wears white on entrance, and changes to the other extreme of black while being questioned -a visual representation of her probable insincerity.

While colors seem to play a metaphorical role in the show, the visuals tend to carry the performance to a different level. The entire play seems like it is directed in a screenplay format instead of a theatrical one. Maybe this has something to do with the recent Hollywood release, but even if it's a coincidence, it is not effective.

Scenes are choppy, and put together ineffectively, creating the impression that the writer couldn't think of any conjunctions. For example, the lights fade to black after every few minutes, similar to a cut in a film, to move to the next set of dialogue. This makes the theater feel more like a discotheque.When the show ends after an hour and a half, there is a sense of relief.

Another striking similarity between the film and The Invisible Theater's performance is the similarity between two female characters -Francesca Jarvis as Frances Kittle, the oldest known Titanic survivor, and the character whose young counterpart is played onscreen by Kate Winslet. Both women are confined to wheelchairs and both have a witty, humorous way of thinking. It appears that either the play borrowed material from the movie, or there were strong similarities between the two stories. But then again, the two performances are based on the same incidents.

"The Twilight Zone" effect of the show, however, does not quite work. A porthole that appears at the end of the performance distracts the audience from understanding what's really happening. Personally, I still don't have a clue, but I doubt I'll watch it a second time to find out.

The publicity from the film is rubbing off on The Invisible Theater's performance, though - they are sold out except for the last three performances. For remaining performance dates and times, call the Invisible Theater Box Office at 882-9721.


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