the Gauntlet

Did you hear that?

Acute hearing takes over the ATP stage

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Cramped in a tiny apartment with only the noise of his neighbours keeping him company, Doyle understandably has some very deep-rooted psychological problems. Whether it's frustration built up by the elderly blind woman next door, unaware her husband is lying dead on the floor, or the writer upstairs constantly tearing up rejection letters, Doyle can't escape from the people around him, nor can he engage them.

This enigma is the focus of Morris Panych's Earshot, a one-man play currently showing at Alberta Theatre Projects. With acute hearing, Doyle stays in his apartment trying to escape the sounds of the outside world. However, instead of escaping the noise, he develops imagined relationships with the tenants around him. Of these relationships, the most important for Doyle is Valerie, the one person keeping him from taking a gun to his head--at least until she reads his letter.

According to Panych, this isn't a detached phenomenon, nor is it out of reach for the audience.

"I think everyone can identify with loneliness," says Panych. "Everyone's been lonely."

This is the charm of Doyle's character, played by Randy Hughson. While he may seem to be a little bizarre on the surface and sometimes down right crazy, he still has to face everyday problems, even if they're magnified--much like his hearing. Through this, the audience is exposed to a solid performance of a well-crafted, witty script, which premiered in Toronto last year. From fairly obvious and corny puns to punch lines that require a certain amount of intelligent thought on the part of the audience, Earshot is clever humour brimming with charm.

It is also that script that gave both Hughson and Panych their most difficult challenge--keeping a one-man show interesting and engaging for the better part of an hour-and-a-half. However, this proved to be one of the production's strengths, as the dialogue became richer and the acting more gripping.

"It's a one man show about specificity," says Panych. "[Hughson] has to create these images and let the audience imagine them."

The audience is introduced to his surroundings by Doyle alone. However there is more at work here than just good acting; Hughson's performance is only part of a whole. The set, with its eerie sense of exaggerated perspective, creates a scene with a deafening sense of solitude. The sounds pierce deep into the audience's mind, offering only a taste of Doyle's insanity. It is these aspects of the play, combined with a good script and great acting, that make Earshot something to talk about--even if only very quietly.