Perhaps it was because I had watched Gone Girl the night before, but the current production of Any Night lacked the necessary tension that made the David Fincher film so compelling.
Some will no doubt roll their eyes at a comparison between a Hollywood blockbuster and the Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn two-hander playing out on the Pacific Theatre stage right now. But while the medium may be different, their stories are cut from the same cloth, and the only real difference is in how they approach the psychological thriller genre. Besides, Arnold and Hahn obviously recognize their play’s cinematic quality as the two are currently adapting Any Night into a screenplay.
Anna, who suffers from some serious dream and sleepwalking issues, moves into a new apartment and quickly finds the building’s caretaker Patrick inserting himself into her life. As her “confusional arousals” intensify, we discover that Patrick’s interest in Anna isn’t all it appears.
The lack of tension here comes from the decision to play Patrick (Riaan Smit) with such normality. In Gone Girl at least, there are clues to just how bat-shit crazy Amy is, and we feel a sense of anticipatory dread for her husband. In this production of Any Night, while we might know that something is up with Patrick, he is so ordinary that there is never any build to the real dangers Anna faces. We should be frightened for Anna, but with little suspense created, that fear never quite materializes.
To raise the stakes even further there is an imperative for a genuine chemistry between Anna and Patrick. There is a hesitancy in Jess Amy Shead’s performance as Anna that undermines the burgeoning relationship, and it never quite rings true. In Gone Girl, there is an emphasis placed on the relationship between Amy and Nick. When the twist comes, there is genuine shock as to what lies just beneath the surface.
Pacific Theatre’s traverse stage can be difficult at the best of times. Pedro Chamale’s set design forces much of the action on the two sides of the stage. Ada-Jane Elrick and Nicole Weismiller provide an ambitious lighting design to help with the transitions between dream and reality, while sound designer CJ McGillivray has some fun with sound effects and music.
Gone Girl aside, I saw a production of Any Night in 2009 that featured performances by the playwrights. At that time I likened it to a good roller coaster. This current production feels more like the tea cups.
Any Night by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. Directed by Julia Siedlanowska. A Stone’s Throw Productions presentation. On stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12 Ave, Vancouver) until July 16. Visit https://pacifictheatre.org for more information.