Presented by Diamond Heart Productions
There is a key revelation that occurs early enough in Flowers for Alex that I’m tempted to acknowledge it. This would allow me to reference the specific circumstances that define the interaction between Jesse (Rami Al-Qeisi) and Alex (Doug Sroka). I suspect, however, that playwright and director Shan Fernando would consider it a spoiler.
We open on Jesse pouring himself a drink while unpacking items from a recent move. In walks Alex. Jesse is greatly distressed by his appearance. After trying, repeatedly, to send him off, the two estranged friends have a long overdue conversation.
There are brief, thrilling bursts of magic realism that occur throughout this otherwise naturalistic play. A car accident from their past figures prominently. Alex coaxes, threatens, pleas to engage Jesse with the memory. Jesse, in turn, desperately deflects to avoid some awful truth.
Fernando’s play wrestles with alcoholism, guilt and redemption. There is an underlying religious element that may alienate or charm, depending on your beliefs. There are poignant ideas in here, but the writing is rather clunky. Alex and Jesse circle around important points, talking endlessly, not to reveal character so much as prolong certain mysteries.
Al-Qeisi and Sroka are earnest and impassioned, but their emotions and physicality feel too deliberate and performative. They seem not to know what to do with their arms, gesturing at each other to punctuate their dialogue. Part of the problem is the venue: the Mainspace at Tarragon is too large for this intimate two-hander.
Though it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief throughout, the finale still moved me. Was it the intensity of a hug? The incongruously cinematic music? Some gesture that draws on a well of feeling I didn’t realize was being tapped? Can’t quite suss it out, but the ending, despite the clumsy dramatics, strikes a chord.