In the opening scene of Lally Katz’s semi-autobiographical play Atlantis, Lally confides in her boyfriend at the time, Dave, about an important dream she had involving a panther, friendship, and growing up in Miami. Dave reluctantly listens, and when Lally confronts him about not being interested in her story, Dave casually remarks that he isn’t. I confess I found it difficult to engage with her story, too.

The biggest problem lay at the core of the stage play, with a heavy emphasis on narrating events occurring on stage, making it difficult to settle down and immerse myself in a scene. After half an hour of ongoing narration, I had no idea where the story was meant to be going or why I should be caring. Lally was doing stuff while telling us about doing that stuff and relying too heavily on ‘this is a true story’, but maybe I’m being unfair.

I could see where the dialogue and narration could have used a more delicate touch. Often, the story may have worked better at a different pace or delivered more reflectively and thoughtfully. Georgia Britt, to her credit, played Lally with energy and enthusiasm. But Lally (not Britt) comes across as a hyperactive, overbearing, self-indulgent narcissist obsessed with marriage, babies, and curses. Lally is quirky, optimistic, and energetic almost all the time, which, to my mind, distracts us from the deeper character arc of her story.

Many scenes suffered pacing issues, sometimes seeming to be a race to get through a scene as fast as possible, with offbeat timing, pace, and/or control.

The most interesting character was Electra, played superbly by Tamara Foglia Castañeda, but felt her efforts were diluted because there was no humorous contrast between her rapid-fire New York Latino delivery and that of rapid-fire, overly enthusiastic about everything Lally. Many of the characters came across as manic. Some scenes would have been far more emotional, interesting, and impactful if the play had slowed down and become more intimate.

The set itself and the technical delivery were impressive. Two single panels and a few props were used to create a range of environments, from apartments to streets, nightclubs, and churches. Each panel also had chalkboard windows that would open up to serve as bars, windows, reception desks and even a DJ booth. I was, however, confused as to why place names were written on the chalkboards, like subtitles in a movie, when we switched locations. There was so much potential there to use the chalkboards for more than place names.

The cast did a great job switching between their multiple characters, which came across more as caricatures to me. The cast did what they could, but unfortunately, much of their time, effort, and energy fell flat on occasion.

The story is that of the playwright, and the characters are based on real people. My favourite moments revolved around Electra’s dog. The second was an in-joke about a caricature the same performer had played earlier. And the third was the sex scene. I was genuinely impressed and amused by the creativity of the sex scene between Lally and Diego.

Alyona Popova genuinely entertained me in the background of a scene between Lally and an Uber driver. With each driving scene, a spare actor in the background runs a toy car around the inside of a window frame. During Lally’s final journey to Miami, given the length of the journey represented, Popova used the entire backdrop and moved with a slow, purposeful grace. It was a slow-motion dance, really, and genuinely entertaining.

An interaction with a New York Cabbie helped introduce us to the theme of Atlantis. References included global warming, finding oneself, holding on to the past, yearning, loneliness, the challenges of womanhood, growing up, and finding love.

These are themes I normally connect with. I appreciate being drawn into the characters’ feelings and emotions, but the play goes so fast that I found investing in Lally and her struggles challenging. And that’s a shame. To be fair, many in the audience were noisy and laughing out loud—a lot. So it just might be that Lally and I just didn’t connect with each other on this occasion.

Atlantis is playing at the New Theatre in Newtown until the 13th of April, 2024.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!