Emma Katene plays Jamie with energy, humility, and great comic timing. She constructs an entertaining character that I am happy to go on a journey with for the hour of the play. Jamie’s exchanges with the other characters do feel a bit one-note though, as the script seems to repeatedly compare her with preachy and, at times, annoying people. It is a little easy for the narrative, and as an audience member, it feels like you are being spoon-fed the notion that she has a lot of learning to do. I think that there is a missed opportunity for complexity in these exchanges because they end up feeling insincere and superficial even though they tackle serious content.
In terms of staging, there are sightline issues throughout that are problematic. I’m a huge supporter of the cast’s use of space, but on an unraised BATS stage, floorwork gets lost. I’m sure it looks great from the front row, but it is wasted work for the rest of the audience. The scenes are intercut with chorus transitions that don’t make sense to me: the actors get up, mime bits of their day, dance, and then return to their seats; this happens in every scene break. The transitions are visually awkward and only serve to mark the passing of time, so this is an area that I would revisit if the show returns for another season. I’m not convinced either, by director Shauwn Keil’s decision to seat the actors side-stage when they are not part of the scene. It doesn’t feel like it adds anything to have them there, so they could just as easily be back-stage.
The play comes to a rather abrupt end, which is unsatisfying when we are frequently being reminded of Jamie’s learning curve as a significant plot element. It lacks pay-off because we don’t really get to see the character development that leads to her decision; we only get the ingredients and the conclusion. This play has some heart, but it needs to make room for the arc that wants to be there.
Running Late is a sold out season. To book tickets for other shows this week, visit the BATS website. It has just been announced that Courtney Rose Brown has won Playwrights b4 25 2019 with her new play Breathless.