By Ann Ziegler.
Trafalgar Studio 2, 14 Whitehall, London SW1 A 2DY to 31 August 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm. Mat: Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 90 mins No interval.
Review: William Russell 13 August
Way back in different times Jerome Kern had a hit with a jaunty little number, lyrics by Otto Harbach, called “She didn’t say yes, she didn’t say no. What did she do?” The answer was – “I leave it to you, she did just what you’d do too. “Today it rings a different note. Somehow it is no longer saucy and witty in the age of date rape. Ann Ziegler’s two hander is set at Princeton where Amber, a female fresher meets Tom, a fellow student, at a party. They are attracted one another. They have had a lot to drink. As she explains life is hectic, meeting new people, setting up one’s things in the fraternity house, going to parties and really there is no time in the day to do the work which just keeps piling up. She also is insecure, convinced others are prettier and wittier, and flattered when this rather tasty guy with a reputation as a lover shows an interest. One thing leads to another and then to the moment when they have sex with or perhaps without consent, after which she is sick. Later she tells a friend that she thinks she was “almost raped.”
The college “trial” that follows is told from their different points of view. Was it just that he turned out to be far from the sophisticated lover she thought and was pretty rough in his taking? He believes she was willing. She clearly expected something less forceful.
You listen, you wonder, as they take turns to deliver monologues or converse, and, if nothing else, is appalled at how the authorities handle things. That is also deeply troubling. Have minds been made up already by some of those listening to their stories?
The performances of Yasmin Paige as the naive, gushing puppy like Amber and Simon Manyonda as the jock Tom – the added ingredient, of course, is that he is black with a racial chip on his shoulder, possibly totally justified, and actually a far more cultured student than she is – could hardly be bettered. It starts with them playing a game of truth and lies, flirting dangerously, advancing, retreating. She is Jewish and insecure, he is black and every bit as uncertain as to where he fits in. She does go back to his room, but did she say yes? It ends where it began and you learn a little more. There is his truth, her truth, and possibly the truth which is different from what either of them believes it to be, and not what the panel of college worthies regard as the truth. It is pretty familiar ground, but the telling is fresh, frequently funny, and provocative enough to keep one’s attention throughout. In the end she may not have said yes but equally she didn’t say no.
As to the truth – 50% and a feather is the answer. At the end a feather floats down. You decide who was telling the truth. It is just one truth was that featherweight truer than the other.
Tim: Simon Monyanda.
Amber: Yasmin Paige.
Director: Oscar Toeman.
Set & Costume Design: Cindy Lin.
Lighting Design: Jess Benberg.
Sound Design: Duramaney Kamara.
Production Photographs: Linda Crisafulli.