|L-R: Sasha Ellen and Spencer Cowan in SIGNAL FAILURE.|
Signal Failure made a bit of a splash at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, garnering rave reviews and playing to sold-out audiences, but it has made scarcely a ripple since transferring to the Soho Theatre on Vandam Street in downtown Manhattan for its US premiere. At the matinee performance I attended, there were only eight others in the audience and, judging from their subdued reaction, that is not about to change. Their reaction really was one of willing acceptance or, at best, mild satisfiaction, rather than enthusiasm or exuberance and I’m afraid I’d have to agree.
Lorna (played by Sasha Ellen, who also wrote the play) and Brian (Spencer Cowan) are two damaged souls who meet as a result of their convoluted travels on the London Underground. From there, the play is basically a minor variation on the “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy recovers girl” theme, spiced up with some gratuitous sex. As it turns out, both characters have been mourning losses, which presumably affects their relations with one another, but the playwright seems to have thrown that in after the fact with little theatrical exploration or analysis of the effects of those losses on the two protagonists.
Both Ellen and Cowan are accomplished, talented actors and they play this two-hander for all it’s worth. But, unfortunately, the play itself isn’t worth much. with the result that the actors’ formidable talents are largely wasted.