Dallas — Scottish novelist, poet, playwright and critic Ali Smith premiered Trace of Arc in 1989 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and nearly three decades later, its themes hold up. Of course, when we’re talking about consumerism, discovering your purpose and resistance against the powers-that-be, it should always feel timely. To make it more pertinent, director Kateri Cale has moved it from Great Britain to small-town America.
It’s Echo Theatre’s entry into the 19th Festival of Independent Theatres, and while it’s not one of this year’s highlights, it’s important to know that 2017 is one of the best FITs in a long time—perhaps one of the best in the event’s history (I didn’t see the first year of FIT, and have missed only two other years since). If this slightly tedious but intriguing play is one of the not-as-high points, it means the overall event has been artistically satisfying.
Pam Myers-Morgan, posing as an audience member, wanders into this play where, at an import store, workers Jackie (Natalia Borja) and Tracy (Abigail Palmgren) try not to make overbearing manager/owner Mrs. Lord (Octavia Y. Thomas) angry. Allyn Carrell plays a variety of shoppers who only speak in advertising slogans (“bet you can’t eat just one”; “plop plop fizz fizz”…).
The folks in the play-within-the-play can’t see Myers-Morgan, whose character is listed as “Conscience.” Or can they?
The title references Joan of Arc as pertains Tracy, who by the end of the play realizes her calling. She has a “trace of Arc,” you see.
Cale’s set design has the shelves and displays in the store outlined in chalk, and the cast walks around them and pantomimes much of the action. The script is overstuffed with ideas and bits about various saints, but the device of the conscience helps connect the dots through to the ending.
It’s one of those festival entries you can chalk up as merely “interesting,” and that’s OK in a collection of short works like FIT.
Trace of Arc continues in the following blocks:
- 8 p.m. Saturday, July 29
- 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5
Read our interview with director Kateri Cale here
See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres schedule here.